Choanoflagellates are unicellular microscopic organisms that are believed to be the closest living relatives of animals. They prey on bacteria through the act of the continuous beating of their flagellum, which generates a current through a crown-like filter. Subsequently, the filter retains bacterial particles from the suspension. The mechanism by which the prey is retained and transported along the filter remains unknown. We report here on the hydrodynamic effects on the transportability of bacterial prey of finite size using computational fluid dynamics. Here, the loricate choanoflagellate Diaphaoneca grandis serves as the model organism. The lorica is a basket-like structure found in only some of the species of choanoflagellates. We find that although transportation does not entirely rely on hydrodynamic forces, such forces positively contribute to the transportation of prey along the collar filter. The aiding effects are most possible in non-loricate choanoflagellate species, as compared to loricate species. As hydrodynamic effects are strongly linked to the beat and shape of the flagellum, our results indicate an alternative mechanism for prey transportation, especially in biological systems where having an active transport mechanism is costly or not feasible. This suggests an additional potential role for flagella in addition to providing propulsion and generating feeding currents.
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- Prey transportation
- Low Reynolds number flow