The physiology and mechanics of undulatory swimming: a student laboratory exercise using medicinal leeches

Adv Physiol Educ. 2009 Sep;33(3):213-20. doi: 10.1152/advan.00033.2009.


The medicinal leech is a useful animal model for investigating undulatory swimming in the classroom. Unlike many swimming organisms, its swimming performance can be quantified without specialized equipment. A large blood meal alters swimming behavior in a way that can be used to generate a discussion of the hydrodynamics of swimming, muscle mechanics, hydrostatic skeletons, and the physiological features that allow leeches to deal with the volume increase and osmotic load imposed by the meal. Analyses can be carried out at a range of levels tailored to suit a particular class.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Leeches / physiology*
  • Models, Animal*
  • Students*
  • Swimming*
  • Universities