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onsdag 23 maj 2012

New insight in beetle flight!

Recently CAnMove PI Christoffer Johansson et al published new data (in J. R. Soc. Interface) on beetle flight, showing that the aerodynamic wake of flying beetles is highly complex and includes novel aerodynamic features that distinguish them from the wakes of other animals. By flying beetles in the windtunnel, it was discovered that the elytra - the hard protective, covert wing - of a flying dung beetle both boost lift and reduce aerodynamic efficiency. Although adding to weight support, the wake of the elytra interacts negatively with the wings, resulting in reduced aerodynamic efficiency.

Composite image showing the integrated spanwise circulation distribution (green line) at mid downstroke (τ ≈ 0.5) with the corresponding velocity and vorticity field (only major vortex structures are shown) and beetle in the background for reference. Blue represents clockwise and red anti-clockwise vorticity.

The function of the covert wings during flight has been debated for a long time, and the new results suggests an evolutionary trade-off between maximizing aerodynamic force and efficiency for beetles, but also a tradeoff between flight and wing protection on the ground. Watch the beetle flight on the CAnMove YouTube Channel.

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