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Natural drinking strategies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2012

Wonjung Kim
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
John W. M. Bush
Department of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
E-mail address:


We examine the fluid mechanics of drinking in nature. We classify the drinking strategies of a broad range of creatures according to the principal forces involved, and present physical pictures for each style. Simple scaling arguments are developed and tested against existing data. While suction is the most common drinking strategy, various alternative styles have evolved among creatures whose morphological, physiological and environmental constraints preclude it. Particular attention is given to creatures small relative to the capillary length, whose drinking styles rely on relatively subtle interfacial effects. We also discuss attempts to rationalize various drinking strategies through consideration of constrained optimization problems. Some biomimetic applications are discussed.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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