Not Just Going with the Flow: The Effects of Fluid Flow on Bacteria and Plankton

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2019 Oct 6:35:213-237. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100818-125119. Epub 2019 Aug 14.


Microorganisms often live in habitats characterized by fluid flow, from lakes and oceans to soil and the human body. Bacteria and plankton experience a broad range of flows, from the chaotic motion characteristic of turbulence to smooth flows at boundaries and in confined environments. Flow creates forces and torques that affect the movement, behavior, and spatial distribution of microorganisms and shapes the chemical landscape on which they rely for nutrient acquisition and communication. Methodological advances and closer interactions between physicists and biologists have begun to reveal the importance of flow-microorganism interactions and the adaptations of microorganisms to flow. Here we review selected examples of such interactions from bacteria, phytoplankton, larvae, and zooplankton. We hope that this article will serve as a blueprint for a more in-depth consideration of the effects of flow in the biology of microorganisms and that this discussion will stimulate further multidisciplinary effort in understanding this important component of microorganism habitats.

Keywords: chemotaxis; larval settlement; microorganisms; microscale; surface colonization; transport.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biofilms
  • Biomechanical Phenomena*
  • Invertebrates / growth & development
  • Invertebrates / physiology
  • Plankton / physiology*
  • Quorum Sensing
  • Water Microbiology*