Motility Patterns of Bacteria

The majority of Gram-positive bacteria are non-motile because they are atrichous, which means they lack flagella, so they are non-motile (Enterococcus gallinarum and E. casseliflavus/E. flavescens, the gram-positive, catalase negative cocci, generally are motile). Therefore, Gram-negative bacteria are mostly discussed when talking about motility patterns of bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria may also be recognised by their motility patterns. You could have recognised the Proteus spp. colony on blood agar and MacConkey agar by its distinctive swarming patterns.

Types of MotilityBacteria
Tumbling motilityListeria
Gliding motilityMycoplasma
Stately motilityClostridium
Darting motilityVibrio cholerae
Swarming motilityProteus spp
Corkscrew motilitySpirochete
Motility Patterns of Bacteria

Figure 1: Bacteria Structure 

  1. E.coli: The majority of E.coli are motile by peritrichous flagella. The Alkalescens-Dispar group, often known as the A-D group, is non-motile.
  2. Helicobacter: Helicobacter spp are mobile due to a tuft of flagella (up to 4-7 sheathed flagella are present at one end).
  3. Listeria spp: In broth cultures, Listeria spp. exhibits a distinctive tumbling and rotating motility. When developed between 18 and 25°C, but not motile or just somewhat motile at 35 to 37°C.
  4. Proteus spp: Mirabilis and P. vulgaris, two species of Proteus, are actively motile (swarming motility). Motility is more difficult to detect between 35 and 37°C than it is between 20 and 28°C.
  5. Pseudomonas spp: Most species of Pseudomonas are motile except Pseudomonas malli using one or more flagella.
  6. Salmonella spp: Most strains are motile except Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Pullorum. Spirilla are motile with groups of flagella at both ends.
  7. Spirochaetes (Treponema, Borrelia, Leptospira): Are motile by bending and rotating body movements.
  8. Vibrio choleraeVibrio cholerae are motile with the single polar flagellum and show rapid darting  (“Shooting Star”) motility.