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Microscopic rowing – without a cox

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New research shows that the whip-like appendages on many types of cells are able to synchronise their movements solely through interactions with the fluid that surrounds them.

Many different types of cell, including sperm, bacteria and algae, propel themselves using whip-like appendages known as flagella. These protrusions, about one-hundredth of a millimetre long, function like tiny oars, helping cells move through fluid. Similar, shorter structures called cilia are found on the surfaces of many cells, where they perform roles such as moving liquids over the cell.

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