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Title: Numerical Investigation of Odor-Guided Navigation in Flying Insects: Impact of Turbulence, Wingbeat-Induced Flow, and Schmidt Number on Odor Plume Structures

Odor-guided navigation is fundamental to the survival and reproductive success of many flying insects. Despite its biological importance, the mechanics of how insects sense and interpret odor plumes in the presence of complex flow fields remain poorly understood. This study employs numerical simulations to investigate the influence of turbulence, wingbeat-induced flow, and Schmidt number on the structure and perception of odor plumes by flying insects. Using an in-house computational fluid dynamics solver based on the immersed-boundary method, we solve the three-dimensional Navier–Stokes equations to model the flow field. The solver is coupled with the equations of motion for passive flapping wings to emulate wingbeat-induced flow. The odor landscape is then determined by solving the odor advection–diffusion equation. By employing a synthetic isotropic turbulence generator, we introduce turbulence into the flow field to examine its impact on odor plume structures. Our findings reveal that both turbulence and wingbeat-induced flow substantially affect odor plume characteristics. Turbulence introduces fluctuations and perturbations in the plume, while wingbeat-induced flow draws the odorant closer to the insect’s antennae. Moreover, we demonstrate that the Schmidt number, which affects odorant diffusivity, plays a significant role in odor detectability. Specifically, at high Schmidt numbers, larger fluctuations in odor sensitivity are observed, which may be exploited by insects to differentiate between various odorant volatiles emanating from the same source. This study provides new insights into the complex interplay between fluid dynamics and sensory biology and behavior, enhancing our understanding of how flying insects successfully navigate using olfactory cues in turbulent environments.

 
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Award ID(s):
2042368
NSF-PAR ID:
10478298
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
MDPI
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Biomimetics
Volume:
8
Issue:
8
ISSN:
2313-7673
Page Range / eLocation ID:
593
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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