Here's Why Ducklings Swim in a Row Behind Their Mom


| LAST UPDATE 10/22/2021

By Billie Delgado
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Many can recall seeing the adorable sight of baby ducklings linearly swimming in the pond or lake behind their mothers. But as it turns out, this routine behavior isn't just charming; it also serves a logistical purpose!

ducklings linear travel evolution
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Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow recently conducted a study that revealed the duckling act of hitching a ride behind their mothers is actually a strategic move to conserve energy. When the young ducks traverse their ecosystem on their own, it kicks up waves around them that drag their pace instead of propelling them forward. So to avoid drag and harness surge energy, the bird species actively attempts to find the linear sweet spot behind their parent.

Ducklings swim in a line
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When making this discovery, researchers used computer simulations of water flow waves to observe that ducklings kicking in just the right spot can receive 158% less wave drag. In such a situation, the birds experience a push instead of a drag behind their mother. This discovery is considered groundbreaking as it has the potential to provide revolutionary change for the shipping industry. It might help engineers implement a design strategy that mimics the energy-conserving pattern of the ducklings while saving expenses and reducing typical emissions.

Shipping energy conservation climate
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One of the leaders of the duckling study, Dr. Zhiming Yuan, confirmed, "These principles could potentially be applied to design modern freight ships, such as a water train, to carry more cargo without additional fuel costs." And although the mechanics are not fully understood yet, it still sheds some light on animal behavior and the significance of fluid mechanics--especially when viewed from a perspective of evolution.

Why ducklings swim together
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Like all well-behaved siblings, the ducklings have learned to share the row ride with each synchronizing their speed to match the group tempo. But each duckling also has to be careful not to dawdle in the process, which could accidentally push them out of line from the rest of the family.

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So there we have it, part of the mystery behind the duckling survival strategy of linear travel is no longer as recent studies continue to help us understand the unique world around us.

To discover more meanings behind some of life's everyday encounters, stay tuned on Discovery!