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The fluid dynamics of Balanus glandula barnacles: Adaptations to sheltered and exposed habitats

Maureen Vo, Sasan Mehrabian, Fernando Villalpando, Stephane Etienne, Dominique Pelletier, Christopher B Cameron
Journal of Biomechanics 2018 April 11, 71: 225-235
Suspension feeders use a wide range of appendages to capture particles from the surrounding fluid. Their functioning, either as a paddle or a sieve, depends on the leakiness, or amount of fluid that passes through the gaps between the appendages. Balanus glandula is the most common species of barnacle distributed along the Pacific coast of North America. It shows a strong phenotypic response to water flow velocity. Individuals from exposed, high flow sites have short and robust cirral filters, whereas those from sheltered, low velocity sites have long, spindly appendages. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of these two ecophenotypes were done using a finite volume method. Leakiness was determined by simulating flow velocity fields at increasing Reynolds numbers, results that have been unattainable at higher velocities by observation. CFD also allowed us to characterize flow in hard to see regions of the feeding legs (rami). Laser-illumination experiments were performed at low to medium flow velocities in a flume tank and corroborated results from CFD. Barnacle filters from a sheltered site become completely leaky at Re=2.24(0.16m/s), well above the maximum habitat velocity, suggesting that this ecophenotype is not mechanically optimized for feeding. Barnacles from exposed environments become fully leaky within the range of habitat velocities Re=3.50(0.18m/s). Our CFD results revealed that the drag force on exposed barnacles feeding appendages are the same as the sheltered barnacles feeding appendages despite their shape difference and spacing ratio.


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