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Maintenance of Constant Wave Parameters by Sperm Flagella at Reduced Frequencies of Beat


1. Treatment of Ciona spermatozoa with low concentrations of Triton X-100 (less than 0·01 %) causes them to beat at lower than normal frequencies. The wavelength of the flagellar bending waves remains constant over the range from 10 to 40 Hz. There is a small increase in wavelength at lower frequencies; in the range of 1·5-6·2 Hz, the wavelength averaged 114% of the normal value for Ciona spermatozoa. The angle of bend of the bent regions of the flagellar bending waves remained constant within ± 10% over this range of frequencies.

2. Decapitated sperm flagella from Lytechinus beat at a continually declining frequency as they exhaust their content of ATP. Both wavelength and bend angle retain normal values until the frequency falls below about 8 Hz. Both parameters increase at lower frequencies, with a sharp increase below 3 Hz.

3. ATP-reactivated spermatozoa from Lytechinus show relatively small changes in wavelength and bend angle as the frequency is varied over the range from 5 to 25 Hz by varying the ATP concentration.

4. Constancy of wavelength over a wide range of frequencies is consistent with the hypothesis that wavelength is determined by the relative values of viscous bending resistance within a flagellum and external viscosity.

5. No satisfactory explanation is available at present for the constancy of bend angle over a wide range of frequencies nor for the changes in wave parameters which are observed at low frequencies.