Secret of Dolphin’s Speed Uncovered

TOKYO, May 24. DOLPHINS are among the fastest swimmers in the ocean, capable of swimming over 30 miles per hour. Now Japanese scientists at the Kyoto Institute of Technology believe they have uncovered at least one of the secrets of the animal's speed: shedding skin.

Though no one appears to know precisely why, dolphins shed their skin every two hours. But by using computer simulations, the researchers
showed that the flaking skin helps break up vortices — tiny drag-inducing whirlpools of water — that form around the swimming dolphin and slow it down.

The finding, published in the Journal of Turbulence, may be a boon to nautical engineers, according to lead author Yoshimichi Hagiwara. "This research could help us build boats, ocean liners and submarines using technology based on these natural solutions."

Its relevance to swimming is not immediately apparent, but you can bet that engineers at the leading swimsuit manufacturers will be studying the results to learn if they can be adapted to boost the speed of human swimmers.

–Phillip Whitten

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Author: Archive Team

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