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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT Swimming speed and hydrodynamic drag were measured on several individuals of two species of valviferan isopods: Idotea resecata and Idotea wosnesenskii. Isopods were allowed to swim freely in the laboratory and their swimming speeds were timed over a known distance. Idotea resecata swam significantly faster (0.208 m/s) than I. wosnesenskii (0.121 m/s); the speed showed no correlation with body mass. The difference in swimming speed suggested that I. resecata might have lower drag. To test this hypothesis, the isopods were killed and preserved, and the drag on their bodies was measured in a flow tank. Drag data were converted to drag coefficients (based on wetted area), which revealed that I. resecata had a significantly lower CD (mean = 0.059) than I. wosnesenskii (mean = 0.084). These drag coefficients are high compared with vertebrate swimmers, but are similar to those of other arthropods. The difference between the species in CD is of the correct sign, but not sufficient to explain entirely the difference in speed. Factors affecting muscle performance must be at least as important as drag. The evidence suggests that selection for body drag reduction may have interacted with selection for other morphological attributes (such as camouflage) to produce the differences in swimming speed and drag.


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