Characterization of seal whisker morphology: implications for whisker-inspired flow control applications

Bioinspiration & Biomimetics
Aidan RinehartWei Zhang


Seals with beaded whiskers-the majority of true seals (Phocids)-are able to trace even minute disturbance caused by prey fish in the ambient flow using only sensory input from their whiskers. The unique three-dimensional undulating morphology of seal whiskers has been associated with their capability of suppressing vortex-induced vibration and reducing drag. The exceptional hydrodynamic traits of seal whiskers are of great interest in renovating the design of aero-propulsion flow components and high-sensitivity flow sensors. It is essential to have well-documented data of seal whisker morphology with statistically meaningful generalization, as the solid foundation for whisker-inspired flow control applications. However, the available whisker morphology data is either incomplete, with measurements of only a few key parameters, or based on a very limited sample size in case studies. This work characterizes the morphology of 27 beaded seal whiskers (harbor seal and elephant seal), using high-resolution computer-tomography scanning at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH. Over two thousand cross-sectional slices for every individual whisker sample are reconstructed, to generate three-dimensional morphology. This is followe...Continue Reading


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