Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds

D. Lentink, W.B. Dickson, J.L. van Leeuwen, M.H. Dickinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As they descend, the autorotating seeds of maples and some other trees generate unexpectedly high lift, but how they attain this elevated performance is unknown. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible, we measured the three-dimensional flow around dynamically scaled models of maple and hornbeam seeds. Our results indicate that these seeds attain high lift by generating a stable leading-edge vortex (LEV) as they descend. The compact LEV, which we verified on real specimens, allows maple seeds to remain in the air more effectively than do a variety of nonautorotating seeds. LEVs also explain the high lift generated by hovering insects, bats, and possibly birds, suggesting that the use of LEVs represents a convergent aerodynamic solution in the evolution of flight performance in both animals and plants
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1438-1440
JournalScience
Volume324
Issue number5933
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Fingerprint

Spermatophytina
Acer
seeds
aerodynamics
animal performance
Chiroptera
flight
air
insects
birds

Keywords

  • long-distance dispersal
  • low reynolds-numbers
  • revolving wings
  • insect flight
  • vortex
  • aerodynamics
  • performance
  • mechanisms
  • samaras
  • swifts

Cite this

Lentink, D. ; Dickson, W.B. ; van Leeuwen, J.L. ; Dickinson, M.H. / Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds. In: Science. 2009 ; Vol. 324, No. 5933. pp. 1438-1440.
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title = "Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds",
abstract = "As they descend, the autorotating seeds of maples and some other trees generate unexpectedly high lift, but how they attain this elevated performance is unknown. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible, we measured the three-dimensional flow around dynamically scaled models of maple and hornbeam seeds. Our results indicate that these seeds attain high lift by generating a stable leading-edge vortex (LEV) as they descend. The compact LEV, which we verified on real specimens, allows maple seeds to remain in the air more effectively than do a variety of nonautorotating seeds. LEVs also explain the high lift generated by hovering insects, bats, and possibly birds, suggesting that the use of LEVs represents a convergent aerodynamic solution in the evolution of flight performance in both animals and plants",
keywords = "long-distance dispersal, low reynolds-numbers, revolving wings, insect flight, vortex, aerodynamics, performance, mechanisms, samaras, swifts",
author = "D. Lentink and W.B. Dickson and {van Leeuwen}, J.L. and M.H. Dickinson",
year = "2009",
doi = "10.1126/science.1174196",
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Lentink, D, Dickson, WB, van Leeuwen, JL & Dickinson, MH 2009, 'Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds', Science, vol. 324, no. 5933, pp. 1438-1440. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1174196

Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds. / Lentink, D.; Dickson, W.B.; van Leeuwen, J.L.; Dickinson, M.H.

In: Science, Vol. 324, No. 5933, 2009, p. 1438-1440.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds

AU - Lentink, D.

AU - Dickson, W.B.

AU - van Leeuwen, J.L.

AU - Dickinson, M.H.

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AB - As they descend, the autorotating seeds of maples and some other trees generate unexpectedly high lift, but how they attain this elevated performance is unknown. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible, we measured the three-dimensional flow around dynamically scaled models of maple and hornbeam seeds. Our results indicate that these seeds attain high lift by generating a stable leading-edge vortex (LEV) as they descend. The compact LEV, which we verified on real specimens, allows maple seeds to remain in the air more effectively than do a variety of nonautorotating seeds. LEVs also explain the high lift generated by hovering insects, bats, and possibly birds, suggesting that the use of LEVs represents a convergent aerodynamic solution in the evolution of flight performance in both animals and plants

KW - long-distance dispersal

KW - low reynolds-numbers

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KW - insect flight

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KW - mechanisms

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KW - swifts

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