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Functional morphology and biomechanics seek to reveal the mechanistic bases of organismal functions and the physical principles involved at the phenotype-environment interface. Characterization of fluid flow (air or water) within and around organismal structures is an example of this approach. Digital particle imaging velocimetry (DPIV) has been exploited in a variety of biological systems to visualize fluid flow associated with animal movement. DPIV employs particles suspended in air or water that are illuminated by a laser light sheet and recorded with a high-speed video camera. Software tracks particle movement across a specified number of video frames, generating vector diagrams showing patterns of fluid flow through time. As powerful as DPIV methods are, they are limited in application by the high cost and complexity of the equipment required. In this article, we describe a simple DPIV system that substitutes widely available, inexpensive consumer components for scientific-grade equipment to achieve low cost (<$1,000 total) and high accuracy (total error calculated to be approx. 6%, as compared with 5% in professional systems). We have employed this system successfully in our studies on the fluid dynamics of chemosensory tongue-flicking in snakes. This system can be used for research and teaching in labs that typically cannot afford the expense or commitment of a traditional DPIV apparatus and is particularly suited for obtaining preliminary data required to justify further grant and institutional support. © 2011 WILEY PERIODICALS, INC.


William G Ryerson, Kurt Schwenk. A simple, inexpensive system for digital particle image velocimetry (DPIV) in biomechanics. Journal of experimental zoology. Part A, Ecological genetics and physiology. 2012 Feb;317(2):127-40

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PMID: 22106005

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