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Changes in geometrical aspects of a simple model of cilia synchronization control the dynamical state, a possible mechanism for switching of swimming gaits in microswimmers.

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Hamilton, Evelyn 


Active oscillators, with purely hydrodynamic coupling, are useful simple models to understand various aspects of motile cilia synchronization. Motile cilia are used by microorganisms to swim and to control the flow fields in their surroundings; the patterns observed in cilia carpets can be remarkably complex, and can be changed over time by the organism. It is often not known to what extent the coupling between cilia is due to just hydrodynamic forces, and neither is it known if it is biological or physical triggers that can change the dynamical collective state. Here we treat this question from a very simplified point of view. We describe three possible mechanisms that enable a switch in the dynamical state, in a simple scenario of a chain of oscillators. We find that shape-change provides the most consistent strategy to control collective dynamics, but also imposing small changes in frequency produces some unique stable states. Demonstrating these effects in the abstract minimal model proves that these could be possible explanations for gait switching seen in ciliated micro organisms like Paramecium and others. Microorganisms with many cilia could in principle be taking advantage of hydrodynamic coupling, to switch their swimming gait through either a shape change that manifests in decreased coupling between groups of cilia, or alterations to the beat style of a small subset of the cilia.



Biomechanical Phenomena, Cilia, Hydrodynamics, Models, Theoretical, Movement, Paramecium

Journal Title

PLoS One

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)