The very sharks you travel halfway across the world to photograph could hold the key to getting there faster. The aerodynamics offered by tiny tooth-like scales called denticles could revolutionize technologies such as plane design, according to new research.
Evolutionary biologists and engineers from Harvard and University of South Carolina teamed up to study the impact of denticles on the speed of sharks, specifically the shortfin mako—the ocean’s fastest fish. The results – published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface – are fairly impressive. Denticles not only significantly reduce drag and push the shark forward faster, but they also create lift.
"You can ultimately enhance your lift and reduce your drag, which in turn helps to improve the amount of energy you're consuming," PhD student and co-first author August Domel told National Geographic.
The researchers began by determining the impact of denticles on speed and efficiency, but the larger implications soon emerged. Mimicking the denticles design on airplane wings could produce faster, more efficient aircrafts. There’s even the possibility that shark denticles could be used to inspire next-generation wind turbines.
With 300 million years of evolution, sharks have been in the speed business much longer than humans. Or, in the words of co-first author August Domel, “Nature has had [a much larger] head start on the design process than humans have.”
Inspired by this story? Or perhaps you’re just looking to aid conservation efforts because of spite towards a certain non-shark lover? Either way, consider donating to one of these shark conservation groups.
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