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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Localized fluidization burrowing mechanics of Ensis directus
Amos G. Winter V, Robin L. H. Deits, A. E. Hosoi


Muscle measurements of Ensis directus, the Atlantic razor clam, indicate that the organism only has sufficient strength to burrow a few centimeters into the soil, yet razor clams burrow to over 70 cm. In this paper, we show that the animal uses the motions of its valves to locally fluidize the surrounding soil and reduce burrowing drag. Substrate deformations were measured using particle image velocimetry (PIV) in a novel visualization system that enabled us to see through the soil and watch E. directus burrow in situ. PIV data, supported by soil and fluid mechanics theory, show that contraction of the valves of E. directus locally fluidizes the surrounding soil. Particle and fluid mixtures can be modeled as a Newtonian fluid with an effective viscosity based on the local void fraction. Using these models, we demonstrate that E. directus is strong enough to reach full burrow depth in fluidized soil, but not in static soil. Furthermore, we show that the method of localized fluidization reduces the amount of energy required to reach burrow depth by an order of magnitude compared with penetrating static soil, and leads to a burrowing energy that scales linearly with depth rather than with depth squared.



    This work was funded by the Battelle Memorial Institute, Bluefin Robotics and the Chevron Corporation.

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