Shared behavioral mechanisms underlie C. elegans aggregation and swarming

Siyu Serena Ding, Linus J Schumacher, Avelino E Javer, Robert G Endres, André Ex Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In complex biological systems, simple individual-level behavioral rules can give rise to emergent group-level behavior. While collective behavior has been well studied in cells and larger organisms, the mesoscopic scale is less understood, as it is unclear which sensory inputs and physical processes matter a priori. Here, we investigate collective feeding in the roundworm C. elegans at this intermediate scale, using quantitative phenotyping and agent-based modeling to identify behavioral rules underlying both aggregation and swarming—a dynamic phenotype only observed at longer timescales. Using fluorescence multi-worm tracking, we quantify aggregation in terms of individual dynamics and population-level statistics. Then we use agent-based simulations and approximate Bayesian inference to identify three key behavioral rules for aggregation: cluster-edge reversals, a density-dependent switch between crawling speeds, and taxis towards neighboring worms. Our simulations suggest that swarming is simply driven by local food depletion but otherwise employs the same behavioral mechanisms as the initial aggregation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere43318
Number of pages32
Early online date25 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2019


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