Tracking the kinematics of caudal-oscillatory swimming: a comparison of two on-animal sensing methods

Lucia Martina Martin Lopez, Natacha Aguilar de Soto, Patrick Miller, Mark Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Studies of locomotion kinematics require high-resolution information about body movements and the specific acceleration (SA) that these generate. On-animal accelerometers measure both orientation and SA but an additional orientation sensor is needed to accurately separate these. Although gyroscopes can perform this function, their power consumption, drift and complex data processing make them unattractive for biologging. Lower power magnetometers can also be used with some limitations. Here, we present an integrated and simplified method for estimating body rotations and SA applicable to both gyroscopes and magnetometers, enabling a direct comparison of these two sensors. We use a tag with both sensors to demonstrate how caudal-oscillation rate and SA are adjusted by a diving whale in response to rapidly changing buoyancy forces as the lungs compress while descending. Both sensors gave similar estimates of the dynamic forces demonstrating that magnetometers may offer a simpler low-power alternative for miniature tags in some applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2103-2109
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number14
Early online date20 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Magnetometer
  • Specific acceleration
  • Body rotation
  • Swimming kinematics


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