A numerical investigation of flow around octopus-like arms: near-wake vortex patterns and force development

A. Kazakidi, V. Vavourakis, D.P. Tsakiris, J.A. Ekaterinaris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
135 Downloads (Pure)


The fluid dynamics of cephalopods has so far received little attention in the literature, due to their complexity in structure and locomotion. The flow around octopuses, in particular, can be complicated due to their agile and dexterous arms, which frequently display some of the most diverse mechanisms of motion. The study of this flow amounts to a specific instance of the hydrodynamics problem for rough tapered cylinder geometries. The outstanding manipulative and locomotor skills of octopuses could inspire the development of advanced robotic arms, able to operate in fluid environments. Our primary aim was to study the hydrodynamic characteristics of such bio-inspired robotic models and to derive the hydrodynamic force coefficients as a concise description of the vortical flow effects. Utilizing computational fluid dynamic methods, the coefficients were computed on realistic morphologies of octopus-like arm models undergoing prescribed solid-body movements; such motions occur in nature for short durations in time, e.g. during reaching movements and exploratory behaviors. Numerical simulations were performed on translating, impulsively rotating, and maneuvering arms, around which the flow field structures were investigated. The results reveal in detail the generation of complex vortical flow structures around the moving arms. Hydrodynamic forces acting on a translating arm depend on the angle of incidence; forces generated during impulsive rotations of the arms are independent of their exact morphology and the angle of rotation; periodic motions based on a slow recovery and a fast power stroke are able to produce considerable propulsive thrust while harmonic motions are not. Parts of these results have been employed in bio-inspired models of underwater robotic mechanisms. This investigation may further assist elucidating the hydrodynamics underlying aspects of octopus locomotion and exploratory behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321-1339
Number of pages19
JournalComputer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering
Issue number12
Early online date14 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2015


  • aquatic locomotion
  • biologically inspired robots
  • biomimetics
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • hydrodynamics
  • octopus


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