Experiments in Fluids

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 755–768 | Cite as

Swimming by microscopic organisms in ambient water flow

Research Article


When microscopic organisms swim in their natural habitats, they are simultaneously transported by ambient currents, waves, and turbulence. Therefore, to understand how swimming affects the movement of very small creatures through the environment, we need to study their behavior in realistic water flow conditions. The purpose of the work described here was to develop a series of integrated field and laboratory measurements at a variety of scales that enable us to record high-resolution videos of the behavior of microscopic organisms exposed to realistic spatio-temporal patterns of (1) water velocities and (2) distributions of chemical cues that affect their behavior. We have been developing these approaches while studying the swimming behavior in flowing water of the microscopic larvae of various bottom-dwelling marine animals. In shallow marine habitats, the oscillatory water motion associated with waves can make dramatic differences to water flow on the scales that affect trajectories of microscopic larvae.


Coral Reef Particle Image Velocimetry Larval Settlement Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter Benthic Boundary Layer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant # OCE-9907120 (MK), Office of Naval Research grant # N00014-03-1-0079 (MK), The Virginia G. and Robert E. Gill Chair (MK), a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (MK), a Stanford Graduate Fellowship (MR), and a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship (MR). We thank M. Hadfield for the use of facilities at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii, for collaborating with us on work involving living larvae, and for providing coral skeletons (State of Hawaii collecting permit #1999–2005). We thank J. Koseff for the use of facilities at the Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Stanford University, and for collaborating with us on wave-flume experiments, and M. Stacey for the use of flume facilities in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley. D. Sischo (supported by a National Institutes of Health MBRS RISE grant) and T. Hata took the minflume videos from which Figs. 9 and 10 were made. We are grateful to R. Chock, T. Cooper, A. Faucci, N. George, S. Jackson, and M. O’Donnell for technical assistance, and to G. Rangan for making the diagrams in Fig. 6c and d.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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