3D Flow in the Venom Channel of a Spitting Cobra: Do the Ridges in the Fangs Act as Fluid Guide Vanes?
OPEN PloS one | 15 May 2013
M Triep, D Hess, H Chaves, C Brücker, A Balmert, G Westhoff and H Bleckmann
The spitting cobra Naja pallida can eject its venom towards an offender from a distance of up to two meters. The aim of this study was to understand the mechanisms responsible for the relatively large distance covered by the venom jet although the venom channel is only of micro-scale. Therefore, we analysed factors that influence secondary flow and pressure drop in the venom channel, which include the physical-chemical properties of venom liquid and the morphology of the venom channel. The cobra venom showed shear-reducing properties and the venom channel had paired ridges that span from the last third of the channel to its distal end, terminating laterally and in close proximity to the discharge orifice. To analyze the functional significance of these ridges we generated a numerical and an experimental model of the venom channel. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and Particle-Image Velocimetry (PIV) revealed that the paired interior ridges shape the flow structure upstream of the sharp 90° bend at the distal end. The occurrence of secondary flow structures resembling Dean-type vortical structures in the venom channel can be observed, which induce additional pressure loss. Comparing a venom channel featuring ridges with an identical channel featuring no ridges, one can observe a reduction of pressure loss of about 30%. Therefore it is concluded that the function of the ridges is similar to guide vanes used by engineers to reduce pressure loss in curved flow channels.
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