Phase transitions in insect swarms

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Reynolds, A. M. 2023. Phase transitions in insect swarms . Physical Biology. 20 (5), p. 054001.

AuthorsReynolds, A. M.

In contrast with laboratory insect swarms, wild insect swarms display significant coordinated behaviour. It has been hypothesised that the presence of a fluctuating environment drives the formation of transient, local order (synchronized subgroups), and that this local order pushes the swarm into a new state that is robust to environmental perturbations. The hypothesis is supported by observations of swarming mosquitoes. Here I provide numerical evidence that the formation of transient, local order is an accidental by-product of the strengthening of short-range repulsion which is expected in the presence of environmental fluctuations. The results of the numerical simulations reveal that this strengthening of the short-range can drive swarms into a crystalline phase containing subgroups that participate in cooperative ring exchanges – a new putative form of collective animal movement lacking velocity correlation. I thereby demonstrate that the swarm state and structure may be tuneable with environmental noise as a control parameter. Predicted properties of the collective modes are consistent with observations of transient synchronized subgroups in wild mosquito swarms that contend with environmental disturbances. When mutual repulsion becomes sufficiently strong, swarms are, in accordance with observations, predicted to form near stationary crystalline states. The analysis suggests that the many different forms of swarming motions observed across insect species are not distinctly different phenomena but are instead different phases of a single phenomenon.

KeywordsInsect swarms; Stochastic models
Year of Publication2023
JournalPhysical Biology
Journal citation20 (5), p. 054001
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as green open access
FunderBBSRC Industrial Strategy Challenge
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeBBSRC Strategic Programme in Smart Crop Protection
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online23 Aug 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted09 Aug 2023
PublisherIOP Publishing Ltd

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Under embargo until 20 Aug 2024

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