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Discovery
Swimming Robot Tests Theories About Locomotion in Existing and Extinct Animals

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Madeleine is helping scientists and engineers better understand how flippered animals swim.

Madeleine, a biologically inspired underwater robot, is helping scientists and engineers better understand the most energy-efficient way to use flippers for locomotion.

Credit: John Long, Vassar College


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Aquatic dinosaurs, called plesiosaurs, apparently used all four appendages for swimming.

Scientists believe that unlike modern four-flippered animals, ancient aquatic reptiles, called plesiosaurs, used all of their appendages for swimming. Madeleine is helping discover why the change to modern two-flippered swimming occurred. This plesiosaur representation was modeled after a skeletal fossil at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Credit: Researched, modeled and composited by Frank DeNota.


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Researchers use the diving facility at Vassar College to test Madeleine's performance.

Undergraduate researchers use the diving facility at Vassar College to test Madeleine's performance.

Credit: John Long, Vassar College


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Madeleine's swim skin comes off after a dip.

Madeleine's swim skin comes off after a dip. The oscillation of each flipper can be controlled independently to test the impact of different gaits on her motion.

Credit: John Long, Vassar College


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Bottles under Madeleine's swim skin house her computer, motor and batteries.

Waterproof black bottles under Madeleine's swim skin house her computer, motor and batteries.

Credit: John Long, Vassar College


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