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Bacterial gliding

Many species of bacteria have the ability to move over smooth surfaces - in a process named 'Gliding'. It's a key part of bacterial proliferation, and is used not only to access resources, but also to avoid adverse conditions (e.g. U.V. light sources).

It has been studied for more that 100 years, and in most cases is not understood.

In Cytophaga hutchinsonii for example, which can move rapidly over surfaces, the mechanism has been shown not to involve flagelaeplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigFlagella

A flagellum is a lash-like movable appendage - often used as a means of propulsion - which is attached to the cell body of many bacteria and some eukaryotic cells. There are some notable examples in plants (e.g. fern spores) and even mammals (e.g. sperm cells).
, but is powered by some as yet unknown mechanism (ref. US D.O.E. )

It's likely that different species might use different techniques - there are at least six proposed mechanisms currently under investigation - see Wikipedia

As well as the biological interest in trying to understand the motion, there is also interest from nano-tech and bio-computation groups interested in exploring possible ways to move nano-structures in the so-called 'Lab-On-A-Chip'. See : New Journal of Physics, Volume 23, June 2021


Also see : Bacterial swarming motilityplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigBacterial swarming motility

"Swarming motility is a rapid (2โ€“10 ฮผm/s) and coordinated translocation of a bacterial population across solid or semi-solid surfaces, and is an example of bacterial multicellularity and swarm behaviour. Swarming motility was first reported by Jorgen Henrichsen and has been mostly studied in genus


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