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Fluid flow through a deep-sea sponge could inspire engineering designs
Sophisticated numerical simulations reveal that the beautiful structure of a sponge known as Venus’s flower basket reduces hydrodynamic drag, and probably aids the capture of food particles, as well as sperm for sexual reproduction.
The deep-sea sponge Euplectella aspergillum, also known as Venus’s flower basket, is celebrated for its intricate glass skeleton. This structure provides remarkable mechanical support and has inspired a generation of strong, lightweight bridges and skyscrapers1. Water is continuously drawn into and out of the sponge’s central body cavity through pores, to filter food particles and exchange gases. Although the mechanical properties of the sponge’s skeleton are well documented, little is known about the detailed fluid flows around and through the organism. In a paper in Nature, Falcucci et al.2 use state-of-the-art fluid-dynamics simulations to resolve these flows. Their results show that the sponge’s structural elements reduce the impact of hydrodynamic forces on the organism and generate internal circulation patterns that might be used for feeding and sexual reproduction.