A Tale of Two Motilities: Adaptive Locomotion in Complex, Changing Environments

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Jasmine A Nirody, Ph.D.
Independent Research Fellow
All Souls College, University of Oxford
Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, The Rockefeller University
Motile organisms have developed strategies to move through natural environments, which are often variable in both time and space. I will discuss two (quite different!) broadly successful locomotive modes: flagellated motility in bacteria and locomotion at the air-water interface in geckos. (1) A bacterium’s life is complicated: it interacts with different fluids, and may need to switch between swimming and surface attachment. We used magnetic tweezers to manipulate the flagellar apparatus and characterized the dynamics of mechanosensitive adaptation in the bacterial flagellar motor (BFM). Our model for the dynamics of environmentally-regulated assembly in the BFM illustrates how bacteria sense and adapt to changes in their surroundings. (2) Animals in areas that periodically flood must deal with seasonal fluctuations in their habitat. In the field, we showed that tropical geckos can run across the water’s surface as fast as they can on land. In the lab, we showed that these geckos use multiple modalities, including surface slapping and surface tension, and take advantage of their superhydrophobic skin, to transition between terrestrial and semi-aquatic locomotion.
Host: Dr. Will Ratcliff


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Jasmine Martin
  • Created:10/22/2021
  • Modified By:Jasmine Martin
  • Modified:10/22/2021