On the tensile strength of insect swarms

Rui Ni, Nicholas T. Ouellette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Collective animal groups are often described by the macroscopic patterns they form. Such global patterns, however, convey limited information about the nature of the aggregation as a whole. Here, we take a different approach, drawing on ideas from materials testing to probe the macroscopic mechanical properties of mating swarms of the non-biting midge Chironomus riparius. By manipulating ground-based visual features that tend to position the swarms in space, we apply an effective tensile load to the swarms, and show that we can quasi-statically pull single swarms apart into multiple daughter swarms. Our results suggest that swarms surprisingly have macroscopic mechanical properties similar to solids, including a finite Young's modulus and yield strength, and that they do not flow like viscous fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number045002
JournalPhysical Biology
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 25 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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