Paramecium swimming in capillary tube

Saikat Jana, Soong Ho Um, Sunghwan Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Swimming organisms in their natural habitat need to navigate through a wide range of geometries and chemical environments. Interaction with boundaries in such situations is ubiquitous and can significantly modify the swimming characteristics of the organism when compared to ideal laboratory conditions. We study the different patterns of ciliary locomotion in glass capillaries of varying diameter and characterize the effect of the solid boundaries on the velocities of the organism. Experimental observations show that Paramecium executes helical trajectories that slowly transition to straight lines as the diameter of the capillary tubes decreases. We predict the swimming velocity in capillaries by modeling the system as a confined cylinder propagating longitudinal metachronal waves that create a finite pressure gradient. Comparing with experiments, we find that such pressure gradient considerations are necessary for modeling finite sized ciliary organisms in restrictive geometries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number4
Early online date25 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished online - 25 Apr 2012


  • biological fluid dynamics
  • biomechanics
  • borosilicate glasses
  • boundary layers
  • capillarity
  • cellular biophysics
  • microorganisms
  • pipe flow


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