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Article: Flow pattern around the rigid cephalic shield of the Devonian agnathan Errivaspis waynensis (Pteraspidiformes: Heterostraci)

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 51
Part: 5
Publication Date: September 2008
Page(s): 1141 1150
Author(s): Héctor Botella and Richard A. Fariña
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BOTELLA, H., FARIÑA, R. A. 2008. Flow pattern around the rigid cephalic shield of the Devonian agnathan Errivaspis waynensis (Pteraspidiformes: Heterostraci). Palaeontology51, 5, 1141–1150.

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Palaeozoic armoured agnathans (or ostracoderms) are characterised by having an external, bone shield enclosing the anterior part of their bodies, which demonstrate great diversity of both forms and sizes. The functional significance of these cephalic shields remains unclear (they may have been a functional analogue of the vertebral column, or merely afforded protection). Here we assess the importance of the cephalic shield in terms of locomotion. In order to do this, we have studied flow patterns of the Devonian heterostracan Errivaspis waynensis (White, 1935), using an anatomically correct model of E. waynensis positioned at different pitching angles. The fluid flow was visualised in a wind tunnel, using planar light sheet techniques, adding vaporised propylene glycol to the fluid. The flow pattern over the cephalic shield of Errivaspis is dominated by the formation of leading-edge vortices (LEVs). When the model was positioned at angles of attack of -2 degrees or higher a pair of nearly symmetrical, counter-rotating primary vortices were produced, which flowed downstream over the upper surface of the cephalic shield. At moderate angles of attack, LEVs remained attached to the dorsal surface, but, as the angle of attack increased above 7 degrees, vortices began to separate from the surface at posterior locations. At a high angles of attack (around 12 degrees or 13 degrees), vortex breakdown (or vortex burst) occured. The body-induced vortical flow around the cephalic shield is very similar to the that described over delta wing aircraft. This strategy generates lift forces through vortex generation (vortex lift). Based on this analogue and knowing that Errivaspis lacked pectoral fins or any other obvious control surfaces, vortex lift forces added through this mechanism may have played a major role in the locomotion of these primitive fishes, not only to counteract the negative buoyancy of the fish, but also as a means of manoeuvring. KEYWORDS Pteraspidids • Errivaspis waynensis • locomotion • vortex • hydrodynamics • leading edge vortices • smoke flow visualisation
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