Green Algae as Model Organisms for Biological Fluid Dynamics

Annu Rev Fluid Mech. 2015 Jan 1;47:343-375. doi: 10.1146/annurev-fluid-010313-141426.


In the past decade the volvocine green algae, spanning from the unicellular Chlamydomonas to multicellular Volvox, have emerged as model organisms for a number of problems in biological fluid dynamics. These include flagellar propulsion, nutrient uptake by swimming organisms, hydrodynamic interactions mediated by walls, collective dynamics and transport within suspensions of microswimmers, the mechanism of phototaxis, and the stochastic dynamics of flagellar synchronization. Green algae are well suited to the study of such problems because of their range of sizes (from 10 μm to several millimetres), their geometric regularity, the ease with which they can be cultured and the availability of many mutants that allow for connections between molecular details and organism-level behavior. This review summarizes these recent developments and highlights promising future directions in the study of biological fluid dynamics, especially in the context of evolutionary biology, that can take advantage of these remarkable organisms.