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Open AccessArticle

Simultaneous Sampling of Flow and Odorants by Crustaceans can Aid Searches within a Turbulent Plume

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sensors 2013, 13(12), 16591-16610;
Received: 18 September 2013 / Revised: 12 November 2013 / Accepted: 26 November 2013 / Published: 3 December 2013
PDF [1552 KB, uploaded 21 June 2014]


Crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish use dispersing odorant molecules to determine the location of predators, prey, potential mates and habitat. Odorant molecules diffuse in turbulent flows and are sensed by the olfactory organs of these animals, often using a flicking motion of their antennules. These antennules contain both chemosensory and mechanosensory sensilla, which enable them to detect both flow and odorants during a flick. To determine how simultaneous flow and odorant sampling can aid in search behavior, a 3-dimensional numerical model for the near-bed flow environment was created. A stream of odorant concentration was released into the flow creating a turbulent plume, and both temporally and spatially fluctuating velocity and odorant concentration were quantified. The plume characteristics show close resemblance to experimental measurements within a large laboratory flume. Results show that mean odorant concentration and it’s intermittency, computed as dc/dt, increase towards the plume source, but the temporal and spatial rate of this increase is slow and suggests that long measurement times would be necessary to be useful for chemosensory guidance. Odorant fluxes measured transverse to the mean flow direction, quantified as the product of the instantaneous fluctuation in concentration and velocity, v’c’, do show statistically distinct magnitude and directional information on either side of a plume centerline over integration times of <0.5 s. Aquatic animals typically have neural responses to odorant and velocity fields at rates between 50 and 500 ms, suggesting this simultaneous sampling of both flow and concentration in a turbulent plume can aid in source tracking on timescales relevant to aquatic animals. View Full-Text
Keywords: plume; olfaction; turbulence; tracking; crustacean; odorants plume; olfaction; turbulence; tracking; crustacean; odorants
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Pravin, S.; Reidenbach, M.A. Simultaneous Sampling of Flow and Odorants by Crustaceans can Aid Searches within a Turbulent Plume. Sensors 2013, 13, 16591-16610.

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