Swimming and feeding of mixotrophic biflagellates

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Many unicellular flagellates are mixotrophic and access resources through both photosynthesis and prey capture. Their fitness depends on those processes as well as on swimming and predator avoidance. How does the flagellar arrangement and beat pattern of the flagellate affect swimming speed, predation risk due to flow-sensing predators, and prey capture? Here, we describe measured flows around two species of mixotrophic, biflagellated haptophytes with qualitatively different flagellar arrangements and beat patterns. We model the near cell flows using two symmetrically arranged point forces with variable position next to a no-slip sphere. Utilizing the observations and the model we find that puller force arrangements favour feeding, whereas equatorial force arrangements favour fast and quiet swimming. We determine the capture rates of both passive and motile prey, and we show that the flow facilitates transport of captured prey along the haptonema structure. We argue that prey capture alone cannot fulfil the energy needs of the observed species, and that the mixotrophic life strategy is essential for survival.
Original languageEnglish
Article number39892
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Number of pages10
ISSN2045-2322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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