Fighting a Viscous World

Vaucheria is a genus of yellow-green algae (think pond scum), and some species within this genus reproduce asexually by releasing zoospores. Once mature, the zoospore has to squeeze out of a narrow, hollow filament in order to escape into the surrounding fluid (top). To do so, it uses tiny hair-like flagella on its surface. Despite the minuscule size of these micron-length flagella, they generate some major flows around the zoospore (middle and bottom). Even several body lengths away, the flow field shows significant vorticity. All this active entrainment of fluid from the surroundings helps the zoospore escape its confinement and swim away to start a new plant. (Image and research credit: J. Urzay et al., source)

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