Flagellar-driven motility grants unicellular organisms the ability to gather more food and avoid predators, but the energetic costs of construction and operation of flagella are considerable. Paths of flagellar evolution depend on the deviations between fitness gains and energy costs. Using structural data available for all three major flagellar types (bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic), flagellar construction costs were determined for Escherichia coli, Pyrococcus furiosus, and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Estimates of cell volumes, flagella numbers, and flagellum lengths from the literature yield flagellar costs for another ~200 species. The benefits of flagellar investment were analysed in terms of swimming speed, nutrient collection, and growth rate; showing, among other things, that the cost-effectiveness of bacterial and eukaryotic flagella follows a common trend. However, a comparison of whole-cell costs and flagellum costs across the Tree of Life reveals that only cells with larger cell volumes than the typical bacterium could evolve the more expensive eukaryotic flagellum. These findings provide insight into the unsolved evolutionary question of why the three domains of life each carry their own type of flagellum.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)