Journal of Bionic Engineering

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 471–480 | Cite as

Operculum of a Water Snail is a Hydrodynamic Lubrication Sheet

  • Xiaoyan Xu
  • Jianing Wu
  • Yunqiang Yang
  • Rengao Zhu
  • Shaoze Yan


Water snails developed a distinct appendage, the operculum, to better protect the body against predators. When the animal is active and crawling, part of the underside of the shell rests on the outer surface of the operculum. We observed the water snails (Pomacea canaliculata) spend ~3 hours per day foraging, and the relative angular velocity between the shell and operculum can reach up to 10 °·s−1, which might inevitably lead to abrasion on the shell and operculum interface. However, by electron microscopy images, we found that the underside of the shell and outer surface of the operculum is not severely worn, which indicates that this animal might have a strategy to reduce wear. We discovered the superimposed rings distributed concentrically on the surface, which can generate micro-grooves for a hydrodynamic lubrication. We theoretically and experimentally revealed the mechanism of drag reduction combing the groove geometry and hydrodynamics. This textured operculum surface might provide a friction coefficient up to 0.012 as a stability-resilience, which protects the structure of the snail’s shell and operculum. This mechanism might open up new paths for studies of micro-anti-wear structures used in liquid media.


water snails operculum micro-grooves friction reduction biomaterial 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



We thank the Centre of Biomedical Analysis of Tsinghua University. This study was funded by the National Natural Science Founding of China (Grant no. 51475258) and the Research Project of the State Key Laboratory of Tribology under Contract SKLT2014B06.

Supplementary material

42235_2018_38_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (2.1 mb)
Supplementary material, approximately 2.13 MB.
42235_2018_38_MOESM2_ESM.mp4 (4 mb)
Supplementary material, approximately 3.97 MB.


  1. [1]
    Carlsson N O L, Bronmark C. Size-dependent effects of an invasive herbivorous snail (Pomacea canaliculata) on macrophyte and periphyton in Asian wetlands. Freshwater Biology, 2006, 51, 695–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Seuffert M E, Burela S, Martin P R. Influence of water temperature on the activity of the freshwater snail Pomacea canaliculata (Caenogastropoda: Ampullariidae) at its southernmost limit (Southern Pampas, Argentina). Journal of Thermal Biology, 2010, 35, 77–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Harrision F W, Kohn A J. Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates, Volume 5, Mollusca I, Wiley-Liss, New York, USA, 1994.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Páll-Gergely B, Naggs F, Asami T. Novel shell device for gas exchange in an operculate land snail. Biology Letters, 2016, 12, 20160151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Poznanska M, Kakareko T, Gulanicz T, Jermacz L, Kobak J. Life on the edge: Survival and behavioural responses of freshwater gill-breathing snails to declining water level and substratum drying. Freshwater Biology, 2015, 60, 2379–2391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Chen Y, Wang X, Ren H, Yin H, Jia S. Hierarchical dragonfly wing: Microstructure-biomechanical behavior relations. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2012, 9, 185–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Rajabi H, Shafiei A, Darvizeh A, Dirks J, Appel E, Gorb S N. Effect of microstructure on the mechanical and damping behaviour of dragonfly wing veins. Royal Society of Open Science, 2016, 3, 160006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Liang Y, Zhao J, Yan S. Honeybees have hydrophobic wings that enable them to fly through fog and dew. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2017, 14, 549–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    Yang Y, Wu J, Zhu R, Li C, Yan S. The honeybee’s protru sible glossa is a compliant mechanism. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2017, 14, 607–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    Bhushan B. Biomimetics: Lessons from nature—an overview. Philosophical Transactions, 2009, 367, 1445–1486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. [11]
    Li C, Wu J, Yang Y, Zhu R, Yan S. Drag reduction in the mouthpart of a honeybee facilitated by galea ridges for nectar-dipping strategy. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2015, 12, 70–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Wu J, Yang H, Yan S. Energy saving strategies of honeybees in dipping nectar. Scientific Reports, 2015, 5, 15002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Wu J, Zhu R, Yan S, Yang Y. Erection pattern and section- wise wettability of honeybee glossal hairs in nectar feeding. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2015, 218, 664–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. [14]
    Gu Y Q, Fan T X, Mou J G, Jiang L F, Wu D H, Zheng S H. A review of bionic technology for drag reduction based on analysis of abilities the earthworm. International Journal of Engineering Research in Africa, 2015, 19, 103–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    Wainwright S A, Vosburgh F, Hebrank J H. Shark skin: Function in locomotion. Science, 1978, 202, 747–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    Tian L, Jin E, Mei H, Ke Q, Li Z, Kui H. Bio-inspired graphene- enhanced thermally conductive elastic silicone rubber as drag reduction material. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2017, 14, 130–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    Oeffner J, Lauder G V. The hydrodynamic function of shark skin and two biomimetic applications. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2012, 215, 785–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Jung Y C, Bhushan B. Biomimetic structures for fluid drag reduction in laminar and turbulent flows. Journal of Physics Condensed Matter An Institute of Physics Journal, 2010, 22, 035104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    Han Z, Zhu B, Yang M, Niu S, Song H, Zhang J. The effect of the micro-structures on the scorpion surface for improving the anti-erosion performance. Surface & Coatings Technology, 2017, 313, 143–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. [20]
    Shi G, Wu J, Yan S. Drag reduction in a natural high-frequency swinging micro-articulation: Mouthparts of the honey bee. Journal of Insect Science, 2017, 17, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    Eleutheriadis N, Lazaridoudimitriadou M. The life cycle, population dynamics, growth and secondary production of Bithynia graeca (Westerlund, 1879) (Gastropoda) in Lake Kerkini, Northern Greece. Journal Molluscan Studies, 2001, 67, 319–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. [22]
    Chandrasekaran T, Kishore. On the roughness dependence of wear of steels: A new approach. Journal of Materials Science Letters, 1993, 12, 952–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Duvvuru R S, Jackson R L, Hong J W. Self-adapting microscale surface grooves for hydrodynamic lubrication. Tribology Transactions, 2008, 52, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    Li C C, Wu J N, Yang Y Q, Zhu R G, Yan S Z. Drag reduction effects facilitated by microridges inside the mouthparts of honeybee workers and drones. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 2016, 389, 1–10.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  25. [25]
    Ikeuchi K, Mori H, Nishida T. A face seal with circumferential pumping grooves and rayleigh-steps. Transactions of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers C, 1988, 110, 313–319.Google Scholar
  26. [26]
    Reynolds O. On the theory of lubrication and its application to Mr. Beauchamp tower’s experiments, including an experimental determination of the viscosity of olive oil. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1886, 40, 191–203.Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    Siripuram R B, Stephens L S. Effect of deterministic asperity geometry on hydrodynamic lubrication. Journal of Tribology, 2004, 126, 527–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. [28]
    Jokinen E H. Cipangopaludina chinensis (Gastropoda: Viviparidge) in North America, review and update. Nautilus, 1982, 96, 89–95.Google Scholar
  29. [29]
    Lopes H S. Sôbre Pomacea canaliculata (Lamarck, 1822) (Mesogastropoda, Architaenioglossa, Mollusca). Revista Brasileira de Biologia, 1956, 16, 535–542. (in Portuguese)Google Scholar
  30. [30]
    Carlsson N O L, Brönmark C, Hansson L A. Invading herbivory: The golden apple snail alters ecosystem functioning in Asian wetlands. Ecology, 2004, 85, 1575–1580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. [31]
    Kolar C S, Lodge D M. Progress in invasion biology: Predicting invaders. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2001, 16, 199–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. [32]
    Oya S, Hirai Y, Miyahara Y. Injuring habits of the apple snail, Ampullarius insularus D’Orbigny, to the young rice seedlings. Kyushu Plant Protection Research, 1986, 32, 92–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. [33]
    Linn F C. Lubrication of animal joints. I. The arthrotripsometer. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery-American Volume, 1967, 49, 1079–1098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. [34]
    Fish F E. Imaginative solutions by marine organisms for drag reduction. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Seawater Drag Reduction, 1998, 443–450.Google Scholar
  35. [35]
    Dou Z, Wang J, Chen D. Bionic research on fish scales for drag reduction. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2012, 9, 457–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. [36]
    Rosen M W, Cornford N E. Fluid friction of fish slimes. Nature, 1971, 234, 49–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. [37]
    Zhao D, Tian Q, Wang M, Jin Y. Study on the hydrophobic property of shark-skin-inspired micro-riblets. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2014, 11, 296–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Jilin University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Engineering and TechnologyChina University of Geosciences (Beijing)BeijingChina
  2. 2.Division of Intelligent and Biomechanical Systems, State Key Laboratory of TribologyTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations