The waltz of the spherical algae


“Long after he made his great contributions to microscopy and started a revolution in biology, Antony van Leeuwenhoek peered into a drop of pond water and discovered one of nature‚Äôs geometrical marvels,” say Ray Goldstein and pals at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

Val Leeuwenhoek had discovered Volvox, a spherical green algae that uses thousands of cells with flagellla to move around.

Because of its size, Volvox is relatively easy to study and Goldstein and co have been keeping a close eye on the organism, watching the way it moves and the flow of fluid around it as it does so.

They’ve also found some unusual behaviours. In certain circumstances, Volvox likes to team up with a partner and waltz through the water like they’d been watching Strictly Ballroom.

The team say that the forces responsible for bringing the partners together are “short-range lubrication forces”, whatever they are, and that the creatures have probably evolved to take advantage of the opportunity this affords for some hanky panky. That must be first in hydrodynamics research.

The team have put together a set of fascinating videos showing Volvox in action which is recommended viewing for all algae.


Dancing Volvox : Hydrodynamic Bound States of Swimming Algae

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