University of Birmingham > Talks@bham > Applied Mathematics Seminar Series > Modeling swimming microbes with a regularized Stokeslet boundary element method

Modeling swimming microbes with a regularized Stokeslet boundary element method

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To model freely swimming microorganisms, we developed a regularized Stokeslet boundary element method (RSM) coded in MATLAB , utilizing adaptive integration, and parallelized and automatically compiled to C for performance.

The model is being used to investigate optimal shapes of motile curved rod bacteria subject to Brownian motion, within a parameter space of body elongation and curvature. Surprisingly, we found that the most efficient swimmer is a nearly semi-circular curved rod propelled by its optimally shaped flagellum. However, other likely components of ecological fitness exhibit different optimal shapes, including spherical bodies (minimal construction cost) and infinitely elongated, slightly curved rods (maximal chemotactic ability). Due to trade-offs between important tasks, we found a wide range of morphologies to be optimal in the Pareto sense. A survey of curved rod bacteria revealed that nearly all observed shapes are Pareto-optimal, with the model suggesting which tasks each species is specialized for.

We are also using the model in a study of dinoflagellate swimming and feeding, here adapting the algorithm for the organism’s two actively deforming eukaryotic flagella. Observations of counter-intuitive swimming trajectories are qualitatively explained by the model if densely spaced “hairs” are included, reminiscent of the effect of mastigonemes on other microorganisms. Current work is focused on comparing simulated and observed velocity fields, and investigating the functional roles of the two flagella.

This talk is part of the Applied Mathematics Seminar Series series.

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