Slipping vs sticking: Water-dependent adhesive and frictional properties of Linum usitatissimum L. seed mucilaginous envelope and its biological significance
Flax seeds produce mucilage after wetting. The mucilage due to its ability to absorb and maintain water is responsible for specific surface properties which are essential for seed dispersal in different ways. In the present paper, we asked how the hydration level affects the adhesive and frictional properties of the mucilage and which role does the mucilage play in seed dispersal? We have experimentally quantified: (1) desiccation dynamics of seeds with a mucilage envelope, (2) desiccation-time dependence of their friction coefficient, and (3) desiccation-time dependence of their pull-off forces on a smooth glass substrate. Freshly-hydrated seeds had an extremely low friction coefficient, which rapidly increased with an increasing desiccation time. Pull-off force just after hydration was rather low, then increased with an increasing water loss. Adhesion and friction experiments show that there is a clear maximum in the force values at certain hydration states of the mucilage. Different hydration levels of the mucilage can be employed in various dispersal mechanisms. Fully hydrated mucilage with its low viscosity gives optimal sliding conditions for endozoochory, whereas water loss provides conditions for the epizoochory. We suggest that the hydration level of the mucilage envelope can determine the potential mode of flax seed dispersal.
Graphical abstractFigure optionsDownload full-size imageDownload high-quality image (142 K)Download as PowerPoint slide
Journal: Acta Biomaterialia - Volume 17, 15 April 2015, Pages 152–159