On the emergence of gravitational-like forces in insect swarms

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Reynolds, A. M. 2019. On the emergence of gravitational-like forces in insect swarms. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 16 (160), p. 20190404. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2019.0404

AuthorsReynolds, A. M.

Okubo [1986] was the first to propose that insect swarms are analogous to self-gravitating systems. In the intervening years striking similarities between insect swarms and self-gravitating systems have been uncovered. Nonetheless, experimental observations of laboratory swarms provide no conclusive evidence of long-range forces acting between swarming insects. The insects appear somewhat paradoxically to be tightly bound to the swarm while at the same time weakly coupled inside it. Here I show how resultant centrally-attractive gravitational-like forces can emerge from the observed tendency of insects to continually switch between two distinct flight modes: one that consists of low-frequency maneuvers and one that consists of higher-frequency nearly harmonic oscillations conducted in synchrony with another insect. The emergent dynamics are consistent with ‘adaptive’ gravity models of swarming and with variants of the stochastic models of Okubo and Reynolds for the trajectories of swarming insects: models that are in close accord with a plethora of observations of unperturbed and perturbed laboratory swarms. The results bring about a radical change of perspective as swarm properties can now be attributed to known biological behaviours rather than to elusive physical influences.

KeywordsInsect flight patterns; Stochastic modelling
Year of Publication2019
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Journal citation16 (160), p. 20190404
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2019.0404
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codePathogen surveillance and monitoring
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online13 Nov 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted29 Oct 2019
PublisherRoyal Society Publishing

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