How <i>Euglena gracilis</i> swims: Flow field reconstruction and analysis.

TitleHow Euglena gracilis swims: Flow field reconstruction and analysis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsGiuliani N, Rossi M, Noselli G, DeSimone A
JournalPhysical Review E
KeywordsBEM, flow reconstruction, general defocusing particle tracking, Micro-swimmers, non-planar flagellar wave forms, particle tracking velocimetry, Stokes singularities

Euglena gracilis is a unicellular organism that swims by beating a single anterior flagellum. We study the nonplanar waveforms spanned by the flagellum during a swimming stroke and the three-dimensional flows that they generate in the surrounding fluid. Starting from a small set of time-indexed images obtained by optical microscopy on a swimming Euglena cell, we construct a numerical interpolation of the stroke. We define an optimal interpolation (which we call synthetic stroke) by minimizing the discrepancy between experimentally measured velocities (of the swimmer) and those computed by solving numerically the equations of motion of the swimmer driven by the trial interpolated stroke. The good match we obtain between experimentally measured and numerically computed trajectories provides a first validation of our synthetic stroke. We further validate the procedure by studying the flow velocities induced in the surrounding fluid. We compare the experimentally measured flow fields with the corresponding quantities computed by solving numerically the Stokes equations for the fluid flow, in which the forcing is provided by the synthetic stroke, and find good matching. Finally, we use the synthetic stroke to derive a coarse-grained model of the flow field resolved in terms of a few dominant singularities. The far field is well approximated by a time-varying Stresslet, and we show that the average behavior of Euglena during one stroke is that of an off-axis puller. The reconstruction of the flow field closer to the swimmer body requires a more complex system of singularities. A system of two Stokeslets and one Rotlet, that can be loosely associated with the force exerted by the flagellum, the drag of the body, and a torque to guarantee rotational equilibrium, provides a good approximation.