Chaos and Lévy walks in swarming bacteria

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 12:00

Bacterial swarming is a collective mode of motion in which cells migrate rapidly over surfaces. Swarming is typically characterized by densely packed groups moving in irregular, yet coherent patterns of whirls and flows.

Analysis of individual cell trajectories within dense swarms reviles that the interplay between the single cell motion and the collective flow results in chaotic dynamics. Moreover, trajectories are consistent with Lévy walks – random processes in which the Gaussian central limit theorem fails. A model suggests a new route in which Lévy walking can result from chaotic dynamics.

The talk will explain these observations – no prior knowledge is required. More generally, I will try to convey how the phenomenon of collective bacterial movement draws from and can contribute new ideas to a range of mathematical subjects such as stochastic processes, hydrodynamics and dynamical systems.

Joint work with Avraham Be'er (BGU) and Andy Reynolds (Rothamsted Research, UK).