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Chem Senses. 2006 Feb;31(2):93-105. Epub 2005 Dec 8.

The fluid mechanics of arthropod sniffing in turbulent odor plumes.

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Department of Integrative Biology, 3060 VLSB, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3140, USA.


Many arthropods capture odorant molecules from the environment using antennae or antennules bearing arrays of chemosensory hairs. The penetration of odorant-carrying water or air into the spaces between these chemosensory hairs depends on the speed at which they are moved through the surrounding fluid. Therefore, antennule flicking by crustaceans and wing fanning by insects can have a profound impact on the odorant encounter rates of the chemosensory sensilla they bear; flicking and fanning are examples of sniffing. Odors are dispersed in the environment by turbulent wind or water currents. On the scale of an antenna or antennule, an odor plume is not a diffuse cloud but rather is a series of fine filaments of scent swirling in odor-free water. The spatiotemporal pattern of these filaments depends on distance from the odor source. The physical interaction of a hair-bearing arthropod antennule with the surrounding fluid affects the temporal patterns of odor concentration an animal intercepts when it sniffs in a turbulent odor plume.

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