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The increasing understanding of the advantages offered by fish and insect-like locomotion is creating a demand for muscle-like materials capable of mimicking nature's mechanisms. Actuator materials that employ voltage, field, light, or temperature driven dimensional changes to produce forces and displacements are suggesting new approaches to propulsion and maneuverability. Fundamental properties of these new materials are presented, and examples of potential undersea applications are examined in order to assist those involved in device design and in actuator research to evaluate the current status and the developing potential of these artificial muscle technologies. Technologies described are based on newly explored materials developed over the past decade, and also on older materials whose properties are not widely known. The materials are dielectric elastomers, ferroelectric polymers, liquid crystal elastomers, thermal and ferroelectric shape memory alloys, ionic polymer/metal composites, conducting polymers, and carbon nanotubes. Relative merits and challenges associated with the artificial muscle technologies are elucidated in two case studies. A summary table provides a quick guide to all technologies that are discussed.