Dandelion seeds float through the air suspended by a structure called the pappus—a ring of bristles that looks rather like the brush of a chimney sweep, only in miniature. But wouldn't a solid parachute-like structure be better? Naomi Nakayama and colleagues show that by virtue of its porosity, the pappus entrains a toroidal vortex of air rather like a smoke ring, and this keeps it aloft, rather as if it generates its own hot-air balloon. This may be an entirely new mechanism to add to the many ingenious schemes living things use to stay suspended in mid-air.
- A separated vortex ring underlies the flight of the dandelion (Letter p414, doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0604-2)
Recent Hot Topics
Sign up for Nature Research e-alerts to get the lastest research in your inbox every week.