The hydrodynamics and energetics of helical swimming by the bacterium Spirillum sp. is analysed using observations from medium speed cine photomicrography and theory. The photographic records show that the swimming organism's flagellar bundles beat in a helical fashion just as other bacterial flagella do. The data are analysed according to the rotational resistive theory of Chwang & Wu (1971) in a simple-to-use parametric form with the viscous coefficients Cs and Cn calculated according to the method of Lighthill (1975). Results of the analysis show that Spirillum dissipated biochemical energy in performing work against fluid resistance to motion at an average rate of about 6 X 10(−8) dyne cm s-1 with some 62–72% of the power dissipation due to the non-contractile body. These relationships yield a relatively low hydromechanical efficiency which is reflected in swimming speeds much smaller than a representative eukaryote. In addition the Cn/Cs ratio for the body is shown to lie in the range 0–86-1-51 and that for the flagellar bundle in the range 1–46-1-63. The implications of the power calculations for the Berg & Anderson (1973) rotating shaft model are discussed and it is shown that a rotational resistive theory analysis predicts a 5-cross bridge M ring for each flagellum of Spirillum.
- © 1976 by Company of Biologists