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PLoS One. 2015 May 4;10(5):e0125040. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125040. eCollection 2015.

Morphologic and Aerodynamic Considerations Regarding the Plumed Seeds of Tragopogon pratensis and Their Implications for Seed Dispersal.

Author information

1
Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Research and Technology Centre, Noordwijk, The Netherlands.
2
Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Research and Technology Centre, Noordwijk, The Netherlands; Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory, TU Delft, Delft, The Netherlands.
3
Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Research and Technology Centre, Noordwijk, The Netherlands; Department of Agrifood Production and Environmental Sciences, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy.

Abstract

Tragopogon pratensis is a small herbaceous plant that uses wind as the dispersal vector for its seeds. The seeds are attached to parachutes that increase the aerodynamic drag force and increase the total distance travelled. Our hypothesis is that evolution has carefully tuned the air permeability of the seeds to operate in the most convenient fluid dynamic regime. To achieve final permeability, the primary and secondary fibres of the pappus have evolved with complex weaving; this maximises the drag force (i.e., the drag coefficient), and the pappus operates in an "optimal" state. We used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to compute the seed drag coefficient and compare it with data obtained from drop experiments. The permeability of the parachute was estimated from microscope images. Our simulations reveal three flow regimes in which the parachute can operate according to its permeability. These flow regimes impact the stability of the parachute and its drag coefficient. From the permeability measurements and drop experiments, we show how the seeds operate very close to the optimal case. The porosity of the textile appears to be an appropriate solution to achieve a lightweight structure that allows a low terminal velocity, a stable flight and a very efficient parachute for the velocity at which it operates.

PMID:
25938765
PMCID:
PMC4418730
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0125040
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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