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Monday 10 Dec 2018Sync or swim? How microorganisms navigate fluid environments

Dr Kirsty Wan - University of Exeter

H103 14:30-16:30

The emergence of synchronized or coordinated behaviours is a well-documented phenomenon pertaining to interacting pairs, bundles, or groups of slender beating filaments such as arrays of airway epithelial cilia, or the flagella of the spherical alga Volvox carteri. We present recent experimental and theoretical results which reveal how coordination of periodic ciliary beating arises from a delicate competition between intracellular mechanical coupling, and extracellular interactions through the fluid. In many cases, the dynamics are effectively captured by low-dimensional models which consider elastohydrodynamic interactions between nearby flagella, but with a few exceptions. Finally, we discuss novel synchronization modes in pairs of undulating flagella in a unicellular alga, and demonstrate the key role of flagellar waveform compliance in mediating phase-locking and symmetry breaking.

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