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Title: Taking a Stab at Quantifying the Energetics of Biological Puncture

An organism’s ability to control the timing and direction of energy flow both within its body and out to the surrounding environment is vital to maintaining proper function. When physically interacting with an external target, the mechanical energy applied by the organism can be transferred to the target as several types of output energy, such as target deformation, target fracture, or as a transfer of momentum. The particular function being performed will dictate which of these results is most adaptive to the organism. Chewing food favors fracture, whereas running favors the transfer of momentum from the appendages to the ground. Here, we explore the relationship between deformation, fracture, and momentum transfer in biological puncture systems. Puncture is a widespread behavior in biology requiring energy transfer into a target to allow fracture and subsequent insertion of the tool. Existing correlations between both tool shape and tool dynamics with puncture success do not account for what energy may be lost due to deformation and momentum transfer in biological systems. Using a combination of pendulum tests and particle tracking velocimetry (PTV), we explored the contributions of fracture, deformation and momentum to puncture events using a gaboon viper fang. Results on unrestrained targets more » illustrate that momentum transfer between tool and target, controlled by the relative masses of the two, can influence the extent of fracture achieved during high-speed puncture. PTV allowed us to quantify deformation throughout the target during puncture and tease apart how input energy is partitioned between deformation and fracture. The relationship between input energy, target deformation and target fracture is non-linear; increasing impact speed from 2.0 to 2.5 m/s created no further fracture, but did increase deformation while increasing speed to 3.0 m/s allowed an equivalent amount of fracture to be achieved for less overall deformation. These results point to a new framework for examining puncture systems, where the relative resistances to deformation, fracture and target movement dictate where energy flows during impact. Further developing these methods will allow researchers to quantify the energetics of puncture systems in a way that is comparable across a broad range of organisms and connect energy flow within an organism to how that energy is eventually transferred to the environment.

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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 1586-1596
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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