, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 145-157

Morphological adaptation of shape to flow: Microcurrents around lotic macroinvertebrates with known Reynolds numbers at quasi-natural flow conditions

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Using Laser Doppler Anemometry we measured current velocities in the median plane around dead lotic macroinvertebrates in a flume which reproduced natural near bottom hydraulics. We investigated specimens of the gastropods Ancylus, Acroloxus, and Potamopyrgus, the amphipod Gammarus, and the larval caddisflies Anabolia, Micrasema, and Silo of various size, various alignment to the flow or which were otherwise manipulated in order to clarify certain questions of adaptation of shape or case building style to flow, or the effects of flow on field distribution patterns. The steepest velocity gradients close to the animals were found near areas of their bodies protruding furthest into the flow. In such regions the rates of potential diffusive exchange processes, the potential corrasion (abrasion through suspended solids), and, for larger specimens, the lift forces (directed towards the water surface) must be highest. Posterior of these areas growing boundary layers formed above those species whose upper contour was approximately parallel to the upstream-downstream direction of the flow. All specimens removed momentum from the flow and thus experience a drag force (directed downstream). From the complete data set we derived the following general conclusions about the physical effects of potential morphological adaptations, taking into consideration diffusion through boundary layers, corrasion, lift forces, friction and pressure drag forces: The physical significance of these five factors generally depends on the Reynolds number of an animal and is largely affected by flow separation, which was significantly related to the ratio of body length to height and the slope of the posterior contour. A simultaneous effective morphological adaptation to all five factors is physically impossible and, in addition, would have to change from life at low (e.g. a young, small specimen of a species) to life at high (e.g. a fully grown specimen of the same species) Reynolds number.