Asymmetric Swimming Motion of Singly Flagellated Bacteria near a Rigid Surface

  • Tomonobu Goto
  • Seishi Kudo
  • Yukio Magariyama


This paper gives an overview of consecutive studies on the asymmetrical motion of Vibrio alginolyticus cells, which possess a single polar flagellum. Inertial forces are negligible because of the cell size and the motion is expected to be symmetrical. However, asymmetrical characteristics between forward and backward motions were observed. The asymmetry observed in trajectory, swimming speed, and residence time appears only when a cell swims close to a surface. In backward motion, a cell traces circular path, while in forward motion the cell moves in a straight line. The backward swimming speed is faster than the forward speed. Backward swimming cells tend to stay close to a surface longer than forward swimming cells do. An explanation for these asymmetrical characteristics is given based on the results of boundary element analyses of creeping flow around a cell model that consists of a cell body and a rotating flagellum. According to the explanation, the attitude of a cell relative to a surface produces the asymmetry. The studies presented here indicate that the fluid-dynamic interaction between bacterial cells and a surface produces the unexpected asymmetrical motion. This asymmetry may help cells search for preferable states on a surface or to attach to the surface.


Bacterial motion Swimming speed Trajectory Asymmetry Fluid-dynamic interaction Boundary element analysis Creeping flow 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomonobu Goto
    • 1
  • Seishi Kudo
    • 2
  • Yukio Magariyama
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Applied Mathematics and Physics, Faculty of EngineeringTottori UniversityTottoriJapan
  2. 2.Department of Robotics and Bio-mechatronics, Faculty of EngineeringToin University of YokohamaYokohamaJapan
  3. 3.Food Engineering DivisionNational Food Research InstituteTsukubaJapan

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