Algae propel themselves by “singing”
Posted by keelynet on March 26, 2009
This was just such a fascinating post for me. Dr. Yuri Ivanovs’ Rhythmodynamics has produced videos of toy boats that move by phase conjugated sound waves which demonstrate this very effect. Alas, no one will fund his amazing research to allow us use of such technology in new transport devices.
“In 1985, in the middle of Atlantic Ocean, researchers discovered a type of blue green algae called Synechococcus capable of swimming at a rate of 25 diameters per second. That seemed strange because similar strains found in coastal waters are unable to move.
Stranger still is that these Synechococcus have no cilia to propel themselves along and neither do they move by changing shape as other single-celled organisms do. In fact, Synechococcus has no identifiable means of propulsion at all. How it moves is a mystery that has puzzled marine biologists ever since. Now Kurt Ehlers from Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno and a buddie from Brazil think they’ve cracked the problem.
They say that recent observations of Synechococcus using atomic force microscopy show these creatures having tiny spikes or spicules that extend from the cell’s inner membrane, out through a crystalline outer shell and into the surrounding water.
Ehlers and co propose that these spicules can be made to vibrate by molecular motors within the cell and that this vibration causes nearby fluid to flow, generating movement (a phenomenon called acoustic streaming). In effect, the bacteria “sing” themselves along. That may not be so far fetched. Yeast cells have spotted vibrating at frequencies of between 0.8 and 1.6kHz,so why not Synechococcus?’ – Source
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