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No. 33: May-Jun 1984

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Rubberneckia

The long-standing belief that unlimited rotary motion is impossible in animals has been shattered. It was, after all, a very reasonable assumption, because necks and other appendages turn only so far before bones and muscles begin to snap. Well, it seems that inside ter-mite guts there resides a single-celled animal with a head that rotates constant-ly 30 times a minute. Since none of its membranes shear during rotation, we must infer that membranes are basically fluid structures rather than solids as supposed.

The animal, called Rubberneckia, has a shaft running the full length of its body plus a motor of undetermined character. To make Rubberneckia even more bizarre, thousands of tiny, rod-like bacteria occupy long grooves on the cell's surface. Like galley slaves, the bacteria row with their flagella to keep Rubberneckia moving -- a curious symbiotic relationship.

(Cooke, Robert; "A Tale to Make Your Head Spin,: Boston Globe, March 20, 1984, p. 1. Cr. P. Gunkel)

From Science Frontiers #33, MAY-JUN 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss