Dancing volvox: hydrodynamic bound states of swimming algae

Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Apr 24;102(16):168101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.168101. Epub 2009 Apr 20.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Movement / physiology*
  • Volvox / cytology
  • Volvox / physiology*
  • Water*


  • Water