Marine environments are generally characterized by low bulk concentrations of nutrients that are susceptible to steady or intermittent motion driven by currents and local turbulence. Marine bacteria have therefore developed strategies, such as very fast-swimming and the exploitation of multiple directional sensing-response systems in order to efficiently migrate towards favorable places in nutrient gradients. The magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) even utilize Earth's magnetic field to facilitate downward swimming into the oxic-anoxic interface, which is the most favorable place for their persistence and proliferation, in chemically stratified sediments or water columns. To ensure the desired flagella-propelled motility, marine MTBs have evolved an exquisite flagellar apparatus, and an extremely high number (tens of thousands) of flagella can be found on a single entity, displaying a complex polar, axial, bounce, and photosensitive magnetotactic behavior. In this review, we describe gene clusters, the flagellar apparatus architecture, and the swimming behavior of marine unicellular and multicellular magnetotactic bacteria. The physiological significance and mechanisms that govern these motions are discussed.
Keywords: flagellar number and position; magnetic and photo-response; north-seeking and south-seeking.