Experiments were performed to determine the unsteady flow structures of a shark denticle replica with three longitudinal ridges of different elevations and sharp trailing edges. Time-resolved particle image velocimetry measurements were conducted to capture the time-varying flow fields behind a shark denticle replica and contoured denticle, using the latter as a benchmark configuration for comparison. The flow fields in the streamwise and spanwise planes were obtained experimentally to determine the highly three-dimensional flow behavior. The flow dynamics of the unsteady superimposed flow structures behind the denticle replica are illustrated in terms of the time-averaged flow fields, statistical flow quantities, dominant vortex structures, and their phase-dependent evolution processes. The findings demonstrate that the denticle replica reduces the size and stability of the recirculation zone, suppressing flow separation. The velocity fluctuations and Reynolds shear stresses of the denticle replica are higher than those of the contoured denticle. Proper orthogonal decomposition analysis on the fluctuating velocity fields reveals alternating clockwise and counterclockwise vortices that convect along the streamwise direction, which correspond to decomposed flow structures, such as counter-rotating vortex pairs in the spanwise plane. These aspects are considered to be signatures of a hairpin-shaped vortex based on the phase-averaging analysis of the unsteady three-dimensional behavior. A hairpin-shaped vortex makes a concerted contribution to fluid mixing between the central wake region and surrounding area. As the fluid flows downstream, fast detachment of the hairpin-shaped vortex is recognized away from the wall to the main stream, which in turn attenuates the flow structure signatures in the spanwise plane. A low-frequency swinging motion of the fluid is also identified in the central wake region, which enhances fluid mixing on the two sides of the wake.

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