Ducklings swimming in a row behind their mother is an interesting sight; Here’s the physics behind it

It is a cute and quite lovely sight of a line of ducklings rowing behind their mother and many of us like to see it. However, there is a science behind it and the physics of why ducklings swim in a row behind their mother is known to many but not to everyone.

The duckling swimming directly behind the mother chooses its position carefully. By paddling on an orderly line behind the mother, the baby ducks can travel in the waves of the mother’s wake. Researchers in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics reveal it saves ducklings energy and they call it free pop up.

The duck chooses the spot where the waves created by the mother duck intersect in such a way that he can surf on them. His chest is in the trough of the wave and his belly is on the crest of the wave. In this way, the ducklings are guided through the waves and have to give less effort while swimming.

Naval architect Zhiming Yuan of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and colleagues calculated that a duckling cruising in just the right spot behind its mother gets an assist. They calculated the process using computer simulations of waterfowl waves.

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When a duck swims by itself, it raises its waves and jumps forward with some energy. That wave drag resists the duckling’s motion. Researchers calculated and it was found in their study that ducklings in the sweet spot experience 158 percent less wave drag than when swimming alone.

Researcher, Yuan used fluid dynamics to determine the optimal spacing and found that ducks position themselves at the right distance apart to get the maximum benefit. However, if they fall out of position, swimming gets harder. The coordination of these ducklings has been much praised that they share space with one another. Each duckling in the line passes along waves to that behind, so the whole brood gets a free ride.