To zip through water, swordfish reduce drag | Science News

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To zip through water, swordfish reduce drag

Newly found organ excretes oil that may increase swimming efficiency

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6:00pm, July 6, 2016
swordfish

SEA SPEED  Swordfish are one of the fastest fish in the ocean, thanks to their streamlined bodies — and possibly their slick skin.

Olympic swimmers shave their bodies before a big race to break records. Swordfish use a different trick, a new study suggests: They grease their heads. The fish (Xiphias gladius) are among the fastest in the ocean — their streamlined bodies can cut through the water at about 90 kilometers per hour.

A newly discovered oil-producing organ in the fish’s head gives it slick skin that could boost its speed, scientists report in the July 6 Journal of Experimental Biology. MRI scans show that the organ links to tiny pores on the head that ooze the oil, creating a thin layer of lubrication on the skin’s surface.

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