Hydrodynamic flow control in marine mammals.

Journal Article

The ability to control the flow of water around the body dictates the performance of marine mammals in the aquatic environment. Morphological specializations of marine mammals afford mechanisms for passive flow control. Aside from the design of the body, which minimizes drag, the morphology of the appendages provides hydrodynamic advantages with respect to drag, lift, thrust, and stall. The flukes of cetaceans and sirenians and flippers of pinnipeds possess geometries with flexibility, which enhance thrust production for high efficiency swimming. The pectoral flippers provide hydrodynamic lift for maneuvering. The design of the flippers is constrained by performance associated with stall. Delay of stall can be accomplished passively by modification of the flipper leading edge. Such a design is exhibited by the leading edge tubercles on the flippers of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). These novel morphological structures induce a spanwise flow field of separated vortices alternating with regions of accelerated flow. The coupled flow regions maintain areas of attached flow and delay stall to high angles of attack. The delay of stall permits enhanced turning performance with respect to both agility and maneuverability. The morphological features of marine mammals for flow control can be utilized in the biomimetic design of engineered structures for increased power production and increased efficiency.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fish, FE; Howle, LE; Murray, MM

Published Date

  • December 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 48 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 788 - 800

PubMed ID

  • 21669832

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1540-7063

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/icb/icn029


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England