Hydrodynamics of Seal Swimming

More content coming soon!

This project is an integrated collaboration between biological science experts and engineers - we aim to properly characterise seal swimming with the aim of gaining insight into thrust generation and maneuverability as well as potentially informing some evolutionary riddles that have left us with some open-ended questions. We're specifically interested in the multiple modes of swimming across the multiple species - some propel with the front flippers and rudder with the rear; some propel with the rear flippers and steer with the fronts; and there are some hybrid species that do both, depending on the mission of the moment.

We're combining very novel simulation with some water tank experiments and extensive testing with live animals, thanks to our partners at the Taronga Conservation Society and Australian Marine Mammals Research Centre (AMMRC). Lots more movies and results coming to this page in the very near future!


They're cute, they're cuddly and a testament to the power of evolutionary design. Seals are capable of speeds up to and over 25 km/h while maintaining agile maneuverability; it is even more impressive given body fat contents nearing 50%. The marine environment is competitive and it has forced the evolution of highly efficient body forms and swimming techniques; when scaled to a comparable size, a seal is over 20 times more efficient than the RAN Collins Class submarine.

Seals present as an ideal hydrodynamic case study as different swimming techniques can be compared across similar morphologies. Understanding of the form and kinematic parameters that define a seal's locomotion and how they affect drag, thrust and stability characteristics can provide information to increase the efficiency of all manner of transport. Our results may also give a different perspective from which to view some biological issues.


Morphology measurements are collected from live and dead specimens along with what can be found in literature. These are utilised to make a CAD model which can be exported for use in simulation and to create 3D models for testing. Kinematic data will be obtained from video recordings and live measurements and will be incorporated into simulations and allow for variation within and outside of the naturally occurring range.

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