Mammalian sperm motility: Observation and theory

E. A. Gaffney, Hermes Gadelha, D. J. Smith, J. R. Blake, J. C. Kirkman-Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mammalian spermatozoa motility is a subject of growing importance because of rising human infertility and the possibility of improving animal breeding. We highlight opportunities for fluid and continuum dynamics to provide novel insights concerning the mechanics of these specialized cells, especially during their remarkable journey to the egg. The biological structure of the motile sperm appendage, the flagellum, is described and placed in the context of the mechanics underlying the migration of mammalian sperm through the numerous environments of the female reproductive tract. This process demands certain specific changes to flagellar movement and motility for which further mechanical insight would be valuable, although this requires improved modeling capabilities, particularly to increase our understanding of sperm progression in vivo. We summarize current theoretical studies, highlighting the synergistic combination of imaging and theory in exploring sperm motility, and discuss the challenges for future observational and theoretical studies in understanding the underlying mechanics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-528
Number of pages28
JournalAnnual Review of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2011


  • flagellum
  • fluid-filament interactions
  • microswimmer
  • slender-body theory

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