Technion: Divers can learn techniques from sea elephants

Scientists believe that what they have learned will be of use to human divers in improving their abilities underwater.

November 11, 2007 21:31
1 minute read.
Technion: Divers can learn techniques from sea elephants

diver anchors 298.88. (photo credit: Channel 2)


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Haifa aeronautical engineers have deciphered the mechanism which allows 300-kilogram sea elephants to dive 500 meters into the sea for fourty minutes at a time and cover a huge distance of four kilometers. The scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology believe that what they have learned will be of use to human divers in improving their abilities underwater. Prof. Danny Weiss, head of the program for the study of autonomous systems at the Technion, collaborated with Prof. Randy Davis of the University of Texas. Davis contacted Weiss about a paper he published in 1973 in which he explained how an animal can make use of certain swimming techniques to extend distance or depth. They decided to focus on the sea elephant, attaching measuring devices to the giant mammals and sending them off into the Gulf of California. The scientists, who published their findings in the journal of the British Royal Society, found that sea elephants swim, glide and then swim again, thus saving energy. When they dive, they enter the water at a certain angle, reducing their movements and conserving energy by using their extreme weight to push their bodies down and forward. Data from the measuring devices found that the sea elephants "saved" a high percentage of energy while swimming, thus allowing them to reach deep and far-off places in the sea where there is plenty of food and no competitors.

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