Oscillation of the velvet worm slime jet by passive hydrodynamic instability

Andrés Concha, Paula Mellado, Bernal Morera-Brenes, Cristiano Sampaio Costa, L. Mahadevan, Julián Monge-Nájera

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24 Scopus citations


The rapid squirt of a proteinaceous slime jet endows velvet worms (Onychophora) with a unique mechanism for defence from predators and for capturing prey by entangling them in a disordered web that immobilizes their target. However, to date, neither qualitative nor quantitative descriptions have been provided for this unique adaptation. Here we investigate the fast oscillatory motion of the oral papillae and the exiting liquid jet that oscillates with frequencies f∼30-60â ‰Hz. Using anatomical images, high-speed videography, theoretical analysis and a physical simulacrum, we show that this fast oscillatory motion is the result of an elastohydrodynamic instability driven by the interplay between the elasticity of oral papillae and the fast unsteady flow during squirting. Our results demonstrate how passive strategies can be cleverly harnessed by organisms, while suggesting future oscillating microfluidic devices, as well as novel ways for micro and nanofibre production using bioinspired strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6292
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2015


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