News Column

Researchers at University of Pennsylvania Report New Data on General Science

June 13, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Science Letter -- Investigators discuss new findings in Science. According to news reporting originating from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by NewsRx correspondents, research stated, "Collective motion is observed in swarms of swimmers of various sizes, ranging from self-propelled nanoparticles to fish. The mechanisms that govern interactions among individuals are debated, and vary from one species to another."

Our news editors obtained a quote from the research from the University of Pennsylvania, "Although the interactions among relatively large animals, such as fish, are controlled by their nervous systems, the interactions among microorganisms, which lack nervous systems, are controlled through physical and chemical pathways. Little is known, however, regarding the mechanism of collective movements in microscopic organisms with nervous systems. To attempt to remedy this, we studied collective swimming behavior in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a microorganism with a compact nervous system. We evaluated the contributions of hydrodynamic forces, contact forces, and mechanosensory input to the interactions among individuals. We devised an experiment to examine pair interactions as a function of the distance between the animals and observed that gait synchronization occurred only when the animals were in close proximity, independent of genes required for mechanosensation. Our measurements and simulations indicate that steric hindrance is the dominant factor responsible for motion synchronization in C. elegans, and that hydrodynamic interactions and genotype do not play a significant role."

According to the news editors, the research concluded: "We infer that a similar mechanism may apply to other microscopic swimming organisms and self-propelled particles."

For more information on this research see: Gait synchronization in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2014;111(19):6865-6870. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America can be contacted at: Natl Acad Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20418, USA. (National Academy of Sciences -; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America -

The news editors report that additional information may be obtained by contacting J.Z. Yuan, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman Sch Med, Dept. of Neurol, Philadelphia, PA 19104, United States. Additional authors for this research include D.M. Raizen and H.H. Bau (see also Science).

Keywords for this news article include: Science, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America

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Source: Science Letter

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