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Do cyanobacteria swim using traveling surface waves?

Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Mathematics


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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