A novel cylindrical overlap-and-fling mechanism used by sea butterflies.J Exp Biol. 2020 Jun 25 [Online ahead of print]JE
The clap-and-fling mechanism is a well-studied, unsteady lift generation mechanism widely used by flying insects and is considered obligatory for tiny insects flying at low to intermediate Re However, some aquatic zooplankters including some pteropod (i.e. sea butterfly) and heteropod species swimming at low to intermediate Re also use the clap-and-fling mechanism. These marine snails have extremely flexible, actively deformed, muscular wings which they flap reciprocally to create propulsive force, and these wings may enable novel lift generation mechanisms not available to insects, which have less flexible, passively deformed wings. Using high-speed stereophotogrammetry and micro-particle image velocimetry, we describe a novel cylindrical overlap-and-fling mechanism used by the pteropod species Cuvierina atlantica In this maneuver, the pteropod's wingtips overlap at the end of each half-stroke to sequentially form a downward-opening cone, a cylinder, and an upward-opening cone. The transition from downward-opening cone to cylinder produces a downward-directed jet at the trailing edges. Similarly, the transition from cylinder to upward-opening cone produces downward flow into the gap between the wings, a leading edge vortex ring, and a corresponding sharp increase in swimming speed. The ability of this pteropod species to perform the cylindrical overlap-and-fling maneuver twice during each stroke is enabled by its slender body and highly flexible wings. The cylindrical overlap-and-fling mechanism observed here may inspire the design of new soft robotic aquatic vehicles incorporating highly flexible propulsors to take advantage of this novel lift generation technique.