Prehistoric CFD

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has been a valuable tool in engineering for decades, but its use is spreading to other fields as well. The image to the left shows a reconstruction of Parvancorina, a shield-shaped marine creature that lived some 550 million years ago. Fossil evidence alone cannot tell paleontologists whether this extinct creature could move through the water, and there are no living relatives that resemble the creature that scientists could study as an analogue. Instead, researchers turned to CFD to simulate flow over and around Parvancorina. They found that Parvancorina’s shape caused fast flow over the outer portions of its body and the slowest flow near its mouth. The results suggest that, not only was the creature mobile in the water, but that it was able to adjust its orientation to drive flow to different areas of its body. Paleontologists have only been using CFD for a decade or so, but already it’s giving us valuable insight into the creatures that roamed our planet hundreds of millions of years ago. (Image credit: M. De Stefano/Muse, I. Rahman; via Physics Today)

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