Published In

Bioinspiration & Biomimetics

Document Type


Publication Date



Pinnipeds -- topography, pinniped geometry


Pinniped vibrissae possess a unique and complex three-dimensional topography, which has beneficial fluid flow characteristics such as substantial reductions in drag, lift, and vortex induced vibration. To understand and leverage these effects, the downstream vortex dynamics must be studied. Dye visualization is a traditional qualitative method of capturing these downstream effects, specifically in comparative biological investigations where complex equipment can be prohibitive. High-fidelity numerical simulations or experimental particle image velocimetry (PIV) are commonplace for quantitative high-resolution flow measurements, but are computationally expensive, require costly equipment, and can have limited measurement windows. This study establishes a method for extracting quantitative data from standard dye visualization experiments on seal whisker geometries by leveraging novel but intuitive computer vision techniques, which maintain simplicity and an advantageous large experimental viewing window while automating the extraction of vortex frequency, position, and advection. Results are compared to direct numerical simulation (DNS) data for comparable geometries. Power spectra and Strouhal numbers show consistent behavior between methods for a Reynolds number of 500, with minima at the canonical geometry wavelength of 3.43 and a peak frequency of 0.2 for a Reynolds number of 250. The vortex tracking reveals a clear increase in velocity from roll-up to 3.5 whisker diameters downstream, with a strong overlap with the DNS data but shows steady results beyond the limited DNS window. This investigation provides insight into a valuable bio-inspired engineering model while advancing an analytical methodology that can readily be applied to a broad range of comparative biological studies.


This work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.

Locate the Document




Persistent Identifier