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Hydrodynamics-Based Functional Forms of Activity Metabolism: A Case for the Power-Law Polynomial Function in Animal Swimming Energetics

By Anthony Papadopoulos


The first-degree power-law polynomial function is frequently used to describe activity metabolism for steady swimming animals. This function has been used in hydrodynamics-based metabolic studies to evaluate important parameters of energetic costs, such as the standard metabolic rate and the drag power indices. In theory, however, the power-law polynomial function of any degree greater than one can be used to describe activity metabolism for steady swimming animals. In fact, activity metabolism has been described by the conventional exponential function and the cubic polynomial function, although only the power-law polynomial function models drag power since it conforms to hydrodynamic laws. Consequently, the first-degree power-law polynomial function yields incorrect parameter values of energetic costs if activity metabolism is governed by the power-law polynomial function of any degree greater than one. This issue is important in bioenergetics because correct comparisons of energetic costs among different steady swimming animals cannot be made unless the degree of the power-law polynomial function derives from activity metabolism. In other words, a hydrodynamics-based functional form of activity metabolism is a power-law polynomial function of any degree greater than or equal to one. Therefore, the degree of the power-law polynomial function should be treated as a parameter, not as a constant. This new treatment not only conforms to hydrodynamic laws, but also ensures correct comparisons of energetic costs among different steady swimming animals. Furthermore, the exponential power-law function, which is a new hydrodynamics-based functional form of activity metabolism, is a special case of the power-law polynomial function. Hence, the link between the hydrodynamics of steady swimming and the exponential-based metabolic model is defined

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