An analytical model of flagellate hydrodynamics

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Flagellates are unicellular microswimmers that propel themselves using one or several beating flagella. We consider a hydrodynamic model of flagellates and explore the effect of flagellar arrangement and beat pattern on swimming kinematics and near-cell flow. The model is based on the analytical solution by Oseen for the low Reynolds number flow due to a point force outside a no-slip sphere. The no-slip sphere represents the cell and the point force a single flagellum. By superposition we are able to model a freely swimming flagellate with several flagella. For biflagellates with left–right symmetric flagellar arrangements we determine the swimming velocity, and we show that transversal forces due to the periodic movements of the flagella can promote swimming. For a model flagellate with both a longitudinal and a transversal flagellum we determine radius and pitch of the helical swimming trajectory. We find that the longitudinal flagellum is responsible for the average translational motion whereas the transversal flagellum governs the rotational motion. Finally, we show that the transversal flagellum can lead to strong feeding currents to localized capture sites on the cell surface.
Original languageEnglish
Article number044003
JournalPhysica Scripta
Issue number4
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Low Reynolds number flows
  • Microswimmers
  • Flagellates


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