The Salp: Nature’s near-perfect little engine just got better

August 11, 2010

By Joel Greenberg
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

What if trains, planes, and automobiles all were powered simply by the air through which they move? Moreover, what if their exhaust and byproducts helped the environment?

Well, such an energy-efficient, self-propelling mechanism already exists in nature. The salp, a smallish, barrel-shaped organism that resembles a kind of streamlined jellyfish, gets everything it needs from the ocean waters to feed and propel itself. And scientists believe its waste