Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tiny 'Jellyfish' Team Up for Multi-Jetpack Swimming

By Mindy Weisberger, Live Science Contributor | September 17, 2015 07:39am ET

A jellyfishlike creature that swims using an array of "jetpacks" could transform the way engineers design underwater exploration vehicles, suggests a recent study.

Meet Nanomia bijuga, a relative of jellies, anemones and corals. This siphonophore navigates the ocean in colonies measuring about 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. Most of that length is made up of its tentacles, which trail behind a translucent structure resembling chains of tiny jellyfish attached to a central column. From tip to tentacles, each section within a colony is a specialized group of genetically identical individuals that perform different jobs.

The jelly chains, or clusters of spheres called nectophores, are the designated drivers. And researchers just discovered that they divide the labor based on age, with the young'uns in the front steering, while the elders in the back thrust the gelatinous bus forward. Working together, they form a living propulsion unit that is rare in animals. 

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