Somersault of Paramecium in extremely confined environments
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We investigate various swimming modes of Paramecium in geometric confinements and a non-swimming self-bending behavior like a somersault, which is quite different from the previously reported behaviors. We observe that Paramecia execute directional sinusoidal trajectories in thick fluid films, whereas Paramecia meander around a localized region and execute frequent turns due to collisions with adjacent walls in thin fluid films. When Paramecia are further constrained in rectangular channels narrower than the length of the cell body, a fraction of meandering Paramecia buckle their body by pushing on the channel walls. The bucking (self-bending) of the cell body allows the Paramecium to reorient its anterior end and explore a completely new direction in extremely confined spaces. Using force deflection method, we quantify the Young's modulus of the cell and estimate the swimming and bending powers exerted by Paramecium. The analysis shows that Paramecia can utilize a fraction of its swimming power to execute the self-bending maneuver within the confined channel and no extra power may be required for this new kind of self-bending behavior. This investigation sheds light on how micro-organisms can use the flexibility of the body to actively navigate within confined spaces.