Contraction of Vortlcella convallaria, a sessile ciliated protozoan, is completed within a few milliseconds and results in a retraction of its cell body toward the substratum by coiling its stalk. Previous studies have modeled the cell body as a sphere and assumed a drag force that satisfies Stokes' law. However, the contraction-induced flow of the medium is transient and bounded by the substrate, and the maximum Reynolds number is larger than unity. Thus, calculations of contractile force from the drag force are incomplete. In this study, we analyzed fluid flow during contraction by the particle tracking velocimetry and computational fluid dynamics simulations to estimate the contractile force. Particle paths show that the induced flow is limited by the substrate. Simulation-based force estimates suggest that the combined effect of the flow unsteadiness, the finite Reynolds number, and the substrate comprises 35% of the total force. The work done in the early stage of contraction and the maximum power output are similar regardless of the medium viscosity. These results suggest that, during the initial development of force, V. convallaria uses a common mechanism for performing mechanical work irrespective of viscous loading conditions.
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