Migration rate of mud bacteria as a function of magnetic field strength
Teague, Barbara D.
Kalmijn, Adrianus J.
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Certain marine and freshwater mud bacteria are endowed with a permanent magnetic dipole moment. This moment is attributed to an endogenous chain of tightly coupled, single-domain magnetite crystals. When separated from the mud, these magnetic bacteria swim north, following the earth's magnetic field lines. As at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the field lines are steeply vertically inclined, the bacteria rapidly return to the bottom substrate where they seem to thrive best. To quantify this migration, we measure the time to traverse the distance between two lines, 1 mm apart, as a function of the ambient magnetic field strength. Using dark-field illumination, we observe single organisms as they migrate in a low-oxygen hemocytometer chamber. We control the ambient magnetic field by regulating the current through a Helmholtz-coil system. At high magnetic field strengths, the bacteria follow a virtually straight path, swimming at rates around 150 µm/sec. At lower field strengths, they take a more random path which reduces their migration rate. Although they swerve moderately at the earth's magnetic field strength (0.5 gauss) , the bacteria still achieve about 80% of their maximum migration rate observed at higher-gauss fields. This suggests that the bacterial dipole moments are well adapted to orientation in the earth's magnetic field. Since the strength of their magnet determines the degree to which the organisms overcome random motion, we can estimate the magnitude of their dipole moment.
Also published as: The Biological Bulletin 157 (1979): 399
Suggested CitationTechnical Report: Teague, Barbara D., Gilson, Michael, Kalmijn, Adrianus J., "Migration rate of mud bacteria as a function of magnetic field strength", 1980-11, DOI:10.1575/1912/9593, https://hdl.handle.net/1912/9593
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