The swimming behaviour of microorganisms can be strongly influenced by the rheology of their fluid environment. In this manuscript, we experimentally investigate the effects of shear-thinning viscosity on the swimming behaviour of an undulatory swimmer, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Tracking methods are used to measure the swimmer’s kinematic data (including propulsion speed) and velocity fields. We find that shear-thinning viscosity modifies the velocity fields produced by the swimming nematode but does not modify the nematode’s speed and beating kinematics. Velocimetry data show significant enhancement in local vorticity and circulation, and an increase in fluid velocity near the nematode’s tail, compared to Newtonian fluids of similar effective viscosity. These findings are compared to recent theoretical and numerical results.



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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/phy_fac/475