Physical Limits and Design Principles for Plant and Fungal Movements

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Science  27 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5726, pp. 1308-1310
DOI: 10.1126/science.1107976

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The typical scales for plant and fungal movements vary over many orders of magnitude in time and length, but they are ultimately based on hydraulics and mechanics. We show that quantification of the length and time scales involved in plant and fungal motions leads to a natural classification, whose physical basis can be understood through an analysis of the mechanics of water transport through an elastic tissue. Our study also suggests a design principle for nonmuscular hydraulically actuated structures: Rapid actuation requires either small size or the enhancement of motion on large scales via elastic instabilities.

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