Dancing volvox: Hydrodynamic bound states of swimming algae

Knut Drescher, Kyriacos C. Leptos, Idan Tuval, Takuji Ishikawa, Timothy J. Pedley, Raymond E. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

272 Citations (Scopus)


The spherical alga Volvox swims by means of flagella on thousands of surface somatic cells. This geometry and its large size make it a model organism for studying the fluid dynamics of multicellularity. Remarkably, when two nearby Volvox colonies swim close to a solid surface, they attract one another and can form stable bound states in which they "waltz" or "minuet" around each other. A surface-mediated hydrodynamic attraction combined with lubrication forces between spinning, bottom-heavy Volvox explains the formation, stability, and dynamics of the bound states. These phenomena are suggested to underlie observed clustering of Volvox at surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number168101
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Apr 21


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