Understanding the thermodynamic properties of insect swarms

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Reynolds, A. M. 2021. Understanding the thermodynamic properties of insect swarms. Scientific Reports. 11, p. 14979. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-94582-x

AuthorsReynolds, A. M.

Sinhuber et al. [2021] formulated an equation of state for laboratory swarms of the non-biting midge Chironomus riparius that holds true when the swarms are driven through thermodynamic cycles by the application external perturbations. The findings are significant because they demonstrate the surprising efficacy of classical equilibrium thermodynamics for quantitatively characterizing and predicting collective behaviour in biology. Nonetheless, the equation of state obtained by Sinhuber et al. [2021] is anomalous, lacking a physical analogue, making its’ interpretation problematic. Moreover, the dynamical processes underlying the thermodynamic cycling were not identified. Here I show that insect swarms are equally well represented as van der Waals gases and I attribute the possibility of thermodynamic cycling to insect swarms consisting of several overlapping sublayers. This brings about a profound change in the understanding of laboratory swarms which until now have been regarded as consisting of non-interacting individuals and lacking any internal structure. I show how the effective interactions can be attributed to the swarms’ internal structure, the external perturbations and to the presence of intrinsic noise. I thereby show that intrinsic noise which is known to be crucial for the emergence of the macroscopic mechanical properties of insect swarms is also crucial for the emergence of their thermodynamic properties as encapsulated by their equation of state.

KeywordsInsect swarms; Stochastic models
Year of Publication2021
JournalScientific Reports
Journal citation11, p. 14979
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-94582-x
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBBSRC Industrial Strategy Challenge
Funder project or codeBBSRC Strategic Programme in Smart Crop Protection
Publisher's version
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online22 Jul 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted12 Jul 2021
PublisherNature Publishing Group

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