Meet the Microbes
Microbeworld Radio
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How They Move

Some bacteria have hair- or whip-like appendages called flagella used to ‘swim’ around. Others produce thick coats of slime and ‘glide’ about. Some stick out thin, rigid spikes called fimbriae to help hold them to surfaces. Some contain little particles of minerals that orient with the planet’s magnetic fields to help the bacteria figure out whether they’re swimming up or down.

Bacterium with flagella
Bacterium with flagella
Harwood, ASM MicrobeLibrary

Some bacteria move about their environment by means of long, whip-like structures called flagella. They rotate their flagella like tiny outboard motors to propel themselves through liquid environments. They may also reverse the direction in which their flagella rotate so that they tumble about in one place.

Other bacteria secrete a slime layer and ooze over surfaces like slugs. Others are fairly stationary.