Propulsive morphology and swimming performance were compared for the odontocete cetaceans Delphinapterus leucas, Orcinus orca, Pseudorca crassidens and Tursiops truncatus. Morphological differences were apparent among the whales. The general body contour and low-aspect-ratio caudal flukes of D. leucas indicated that this species was a low-performance swimmer compared with the other species. Propulsive motions were video-taped as animals swam steadily in large pools. Video tapes were analyzed digitally using a computerized motion-analysis system. Animals swam at relative velocities ranging from 0.4 to 2.4 body lengths s-1. The stroke amplitude of the flukes decreased linearly with velocity for D. leucas, but amplitude remained constant for the other species. Tail-beat frequencies were directly related to relative swimming velocity, whereas the pitch angle of the flukes was inversely related to relative swimming velocity. Unsteady lifting-wing theory was used with regression equations based on kinematics to calculate thrust power output, drag coefficients and propulsive efficiency. Compared with other species, O. orca generated the largest thrust power (36.3 kW) and had the lowest drag coefficient (0.0026), whereas T. truncatus displayed the largest mass-specific thrust power (23.7 W kg-1) and P. crassidens had the highest efficiency (0.9). D. leucas did not swim as rapidly as the other species and had a comparatively higher minimum drag coefficient (0.01), lower mass-specific thrust power (5.2 W kg-1) and lower maximum efficiency (0.84). Minimum drag coefficients were associated with high swimming speeds, and maximum efficiencies corresponded with velocities in the range of typical cruising speeds. The results indicate that the kinematics of the propulsive flukes and hydrodynamics are associated with the swimming behaviors and morphological designs exhibited by the whales in this study, although additional factors will influence morphology.

This content is only available via PDF.