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Phys Rev Lett. 2016 Jan 22;116(3):038102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.038102. Epub 2016 Jan 22.

Motility of Colonial Choanoflagellates and the Statistics of Aggregate Random Walkers.

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Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge CB3 0WA, United Kingdom.


We illuminate the nature of the three-dimensional random walks of microorganisms composed of individual organisms adhered together. Such aggregate random walkers are typified by choanoflagellates, eukaryotes that are the closest living relatives of animals. In the colony-forming species Salpingoeca rosetta we show that the beating of each flagellum is stochastic and uncorrelated with others, and the vectorial sum of the flagellar propulsion manifests as stochastic helical swimming. A quantitative theory for these results is presented and species variability discussed.

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