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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 6, 1996; 93(16): 8340–8343.

Do cyanobacteria swim using traveling surface waves?


Bacteria that swim without the benefit of flagella might do so by generating longitudinal or transverse surface waves. For example, swimming speeds of order 25 microns/s are expected for a spherical cell propagating longitudinal waves of 0.2 micron length, 0.02 micron amplitude, and 160 microns/s speed. This problem was solved earlier by mathematicians who were interested in the locomotion of ciliates and who considered the undulations of the envelope swept out by ciliary tips. A new solution is given for spheres propagating sinusoidal waveforms rather than Legendre polynomials. The earlier work is reviewed and possible experimental tests are suggested.

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Selected References

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  • Waterbury JB, Willey JM, Franks DG, Valois FW, Watson SW. A cyanobacterium capable of swimming motility. Science. 1985 Oct 4;230(4721):74–76. [PubMed]
  • Pitta TP, Berg HC. Self-electrophoresis is not the mechanism for motility in swimming cyanobacteria. J Bacteriol. 1995 Oct;177(19):5701–5703. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Lapidus IR, Berg HC. Gliding motility of Cytophaga sp. strain U67. J Bacteriol. 1982 Jul;151(1):384–398. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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