Scientists studying the Nanomia bijuga found it unique. Inasmuch as no other colony organism uses jets to maneuver through water.
Jet propulsion is not uncommon in the animal kingdom, both squid and jellyfish using it to move around. What makes Nanomia bijuga special is the way it employs its jets.
Unlike more developed organisms, an N. bijuga individual cannot move in more than one direction. But it more than makes up for this with team-work and numbers.
Every colony consisting of identical clones of various ages. Among these, between four and twelve are dedicated to locomotion, organized among themselves in a little “engine” called a “nectosome”.
The way N. Bijuga locomotion functions is remarkably similar to the way satellites and other man-made vessels move through space. They have multiple fixed propulsion units acting in concert to generate a singular flowing movement.
Work is divided between the younger and the older members of the colony. The younger members generate less propulsion, thus are relegated to steering. They sit at the very top of the nectosome acting as a lever.
The older individuals, which have been recorded as yielding a higher “thrust”, generally handle forward movement. The colony grows form the tip, and older members are gradually pushed to the back by their recently added counterparts. This brings them where they are most needed.
This gives the N. bijuga excellent maneuverability, and an ability to almost instantaneously change course. If the situation calls for it, the nectosome can instantly reverse its direction by switching jobs between the older and younger individual.
Using this locomotion system, the colony can also achieve impressive feats of range and endurance. Despite being only a few centimeters long, N. Bijuga feeding groups have been recorded to travel as far as 200 m in a single day.
“This is a highly efficient system in which no developmental stage is wasted. It’s a quite sophisticated design, for what would seem like a simple arrangement.” says John Costello of Providence College, the lead author of the study.
This high degree of mobility is essential for the little plankton feeding N. bijuga, but further study could make it benefit humanity as well.
According to John Costello, the data collected from by studies of the N. Bijuga might be used to develop propulsion and steering systems for future submersible vehicles.
While no other colony organism uses jets to maneuver under water, humans are not barred from joining in.
Photo Credits: en.wikipedia.org