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Irradiation of Sperm Tails by Laser Microbeam


1. Sea-urchin and starfish sperm tails were irradiated at pre-selected points along the flagellum and at pre-selected phases of the beat cycle by means of a pulsed ruby laser microbeam. Multiple-exposure dark-field photomicrographs were taken immediately before and after irradiation. The flagellum usually appeared to be broken at the irradiated point.

2. The portion of a flagellum between the head and the irradiated point continued for at least a few beats if its length was at least 25% of the length of the tail, and stopped immediately if it was shorter.

3. Bends already established beyond the irradiated point continued to propagate to the tip of the flagellum. Their propagation velocity generally decreased, and there were usually changes in other bend parameters.

4. No new bends ever developed beyond the irradiated point.

5. Irradiation within a bent region often completely eliminated that region.

This paper has been abstracted from part of a Ph.D. thesis presented to the California Institute of Technology.