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Under the sea: Pulsing corals in ambient flow

Nicholas A. Battista, Julia E. Samson, Shilpa Khatri, Laura A. Miller

Abstract


While many organisms filter feed and exchange heat or nutrients in flow, few benthic organisms also actively pulse to enhance feeding and exchange. One example is the pulsing soft coral (Alcyonacea: Xeniidae). Pulsing corals live in colonies, where each polyp actively pulses through contraction and relaxation of their tentacles. The pulses are typically out of phase and without a clear pattern. These corals live in lagoons and bays found in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean where they at times experience strong ambient flows. In this paper, 3D fluid-structure interaction simulations are used to quantify the effects of ambient flow on the exchange currents produced by the active contraction of pulsing corals. We find a complex interaction between the flows produced by the coral and the background flow. The dynamics can either enhance or reduce the upward jet generated in a quiescent medium. The pulsing behavior also slows the average horizontal flow near the polyp when there is a strong background flow. The dynamics of these flows have implications for particle capture and nutrient exchange.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11145/texts.2017.11.197

Copyright (c) 2017 Nicholas A. Battista, Julia E. Samson, Shilpa Khatri, Laura A. Miller