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The fern sporangium catapulted in Science

"The fern sporangium : a unique catapult" by Xavier Noblin (LPMC, Nice), N. Rojas (LJAD, Nice) J. Westbrook (Univ. Florida), C. LLorens (LJAD, Nice), M. Argentina (LJAD, Nice), and J. Dumais (OEB, Harvard Univ.) has just been published in Science Magazine.

A large number of ferns boot their sporangium out thanks to a catapulting mechanism making their dissemination very efficient. In this study, that lies at the interface between physics and biomechanics of plants, the mechanics of this natural catapult is analysed. Ultra-fast movie records showed that the fast return movement of such a catapult is completed via two time scales, providing a momentary stop of its arm, and permitting to boot the sporangium out in a very efficient manner.

This work, carried out through an interdisciplinary French-American collaboration, open the route towards developing humidity actuators-sensors, but also new perspectives for studying the propagation of cavitation bubbles in sporangium like biometrics systems.

This work is illustrated by the following movie.

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