Motile spermatozoa from the golden hamster have been arrested by rapid freezing and then fixed with glutaraldehyde at low temperature after substitution with ethylene glycol. As far as can be judged, the flagellar waveforms thus stabilized are similar to those seen in living sperm; in contrast, fixation in glutaraldehyde, without prior freezing, induces agonal changes in flagellar conformation. The characteristics waveform after freeze substitution contains three bends. Approx. half of these flagella are entirely planar. The rest are three dimensional, with the third bend displaced in a regular way from the plane containing the proximal two bends. From the geometry of these flagella, it is concluded that the plane of action of a given bending cycle undergoes a clockwise twist (from a forward viewpoint) as the cycle is succeeded by new bending cycles. This "twisted plane" undulation is quite different from helical movement. The twisting seems to occur abruptly, between cycles, as if each bending cycle has a preferred plane of action. The mechanism underlying the twisting is uncertain. However, on the basis of the angular displacements between the preferred planes, and the findings from electron microscopy, the following idea is presented as a working hypothesis: that, if the most proximal plane of bending is topographically determined by peripheral doublet 1, then successive distal planes of action are influenced predominantly by doublets 2, 3, etc., in clockwise sequence. The merits and weaknesses of this hypothesis are discussed.

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