The Evolutionary Biology of Vortex Rings: Unveiling Nature’s Blueprint for the Heart, Vasomotion, and Flow Patterns


I recently taught an online webinar for craniosacral therapists. THE HEART PRESENCE, INTERDEPENDENCE & CIRCULATION.  
We looked at the fluid dynamics of the heart from an evolutionary biology perspective. Using the fluid practice of Continuum we explored and embodied insights we learned together. I explore evolutionary biology in the holistic awareness process practitioner training I have developed called Naio™. I feel it is a valuable contribution for craniosacral practitioners working with the vastness of the heart.
Evolutionary biology provides insights into the remarkable adaptations and structures that have emerged in the natural world over millions of years. Among these fascinating phenomena are vortex rings, which play a crucial role in various natural systems.
From the universal birthing of solar systems to the earth’s atmosphere, oceans and volcanic magma, vortex rings are ubiquitous. Wherever there is fluid dynamics, there are vortex rings at work. They have also been found to shape the development and function of the heart, vasomotion, and flow patterns. This article explores the connection between vortex rings and evolutionary biology. I would like to shed some light on their role within the cardiovascular system.

Understanding Vortex Rings:

Vortex rings are coherent, self-sustaining structures composed of rotating fluid or gas. They form when a fluid is displaced and set into motion in a circular or toroidal path, exhibiting unique properties such as stability, momentum preservation, and efficient propagation over long distances. Vortex rings are prevalent in nature, and countless organisms have harnessed their benefits for survival and efficiency.
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Role of Vortex Rings in Nature:

Vortex rings are found throughout the natural world, serving a variety of functions in different organisms. Birds, for example, generate vortex rings during flight, which enable them to maintain lift and maneuver with agility.
In aquatic environments, marine animals like jellyfish employ vortex rings for locomotion and prey capture. You can see it in the slalom swim of trout, in the propulsion of cuttlefish, through the water and also air. Yes – they fly! In many ways the bodies of cuttlefish are an ancient prototype for heart function.
Even plants utilize vortex rings for seed dispersal, maximizing their chances of successful reproduction. This can be seen in the gliding through the air of dandelion seeds. These examples highlight the versatility and significance of vortex rings in nature.
As as surfer, we are looking, feeling and riding vortex rings for our own sheer joy. Dolphins and Belugas will actually make vortex rings to play with. Clearly some common watery love occurring.
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Laminar & Linear Flow

Vortex Rings and the Development of the Heart:

The heart, a complex organ responsible for supporting the swirling of blood throughout the body, relies on vortex rings for its development and efficient functioning. During embryonic development, the heart begins as a linear tube, and a series of intricate events transform it into a chambered organ. Research suggests that vortex rings play a pivotal role in shaping the heart’s structure during this development process.
As the linear heart tube loops and forms chambers, the blood flow within generates vortex rings. These vortex rings guide the flow of blood, ensuring the efficient distribution of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues.
Additionally, vortex rings within the heart chambers facilitate the mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood, promote efficient oxygen delivery, prevent blood stasis, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The rotational flow patterns of vortex rings optimize the heart’s pumping efficiency, enhancing stroke volume and ensuring adequate blood supply with each heartbeat.

Vortex Rings and Vasomotion:

Vasomotion refers to the rhythmic oscillations in the diameter of blood vessels, particularly arterioles. This phenomenon plays a crucial role in regulating blood flow and blood pressure. Recent studies have discovered the presence of vortex rings in the vasculature, suggesting their involvement in vasomotion.
Vortex rings within blood vessels contribute to effective vasodilation and vasoconstriction. The rhythmic contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle cells in blood vessel walls, coupled with the presence of vortex rings, modulate blood flow and regulate systemic blood pressure. These vortex rings create flow patterns that optimize the exchange of nutrients and waste products in the vasculature, further enhancing the cardiovascular system’s efficiency.
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Linear and Laminar Flow Patterns:

In addition to vortex rings, the evolutionary biology perspective of flow patterns within the cardiovascular system provides valuable insights. The heart and blood vessels exhibit two primary flow patterns: linear and laminar.
Linear flow patterns are characterized by a straight, unidirectional flow of blood along a vessel. This pattern is observed in large arteries and veins, where high flow rates and low resistance allow for efficient transport of blood throughout the body. Linear flow patterns contribute to the rapid distribution of oxygen and nutrients to various tissues.
Laminar flow patterns involve blood flow in adjacent layers, with each layer sliding smoothly over the adjacent one. This pattern is typically observed in smaller blood vessels and capillaries. Laminar flow promotes optimal nutrient exchange and waste removal in the microcirculation, facilitating the proper functioning of tissues.
At the time of writing this article the above is what is accepted generally to occur. This is a summary, and there is a more in-depth exploration to be discussed as far as flow patterns in general, and within the arteries and veins.

Evolutionary Significance:

The presence of vortex rings, linear flow patterns, and laminar flow patterns in the development, function, and regulation of the cardiovascular system underscores the remarkable role of evolutionary biology. These flow patterns have been honed over millions of years through natural selection to optimize blood circulation, enhance cardiac performance, and ensure efficient nutrient exchange.
From this perspective we could look at our hearts as a culmination of billions of years of creative genius. The mystery and wisdom of the heart is endless. The heart’s knowledge is ancient and beyond categories. Just as vortex rings are ubiquitous in nature, so too, our hearts, they are an embodied example of interconnection of all life.


Vortex rings, along with linear and laminar flow patterns, exemplify the intricate evolutionary adaptations within the cardiovascular system. From the development and efficient functioning of the heart to the regulation of blood flow and nutrient exchange, these phenomena play critical roles in maintaining optimal cardiovascular health. Exploring the evolutionary biology perspective of vortex rings and flow patterns can provide valuable insights into cardiac development, vasomotion regulation, and potential therapeutic strategies for cardiovascular disorders. Nature’s blueprint for the heart and vasculature continues to unravel, revealing the wonders of evolution’s artistry in optimizing the cardiovascular system.
Written by Prue Jeffries, May 2023 for THE HEART PRESENCE, INTERDEPENDENCE & CIRCULATION Seminar.

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