Shark Scales Help Them Make Quick Underwater Turns


Researchers at the University of South Florida and the University of Alabama have found that teeth-like scales on sharks’ skin, nearly invisible to the human eye, make them better hunters by allowing them to change directions while moving at full speed.

Amy Lang, aerospace engineer, presented her team’s study at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics annual meeting in Long Beach, California.

“In nature, if you look at surfaces of animals, you’ll see that they are not smooth,” Lang said. “They have patterns. Why? One common application of patterning a surface is to control flow – think of the dimples of a golf ball that help the ball fly farther.”

“We believe scales on fast-swimming sharks serve a similar purpose of flow separation control,” she said.

According to Lang, mako sharks, a relative of the great white shark, could one day inspire the design of aircrafts. Maco’s scales that are not the same as other sharks. Its scales, made of the same material as teeth, are different in flexibility and size.

The scales can bristle to angles of 60 degrees or more from the skin. When the shark is swimming quickly, the angle helps reduce drag from the water.

Amy hopes that the shark’s design could someday inspire designs for helicopters, aircraft and wind turbines.

Sources: 1, 2