Abstract.: Suspensions of small planktonic copepods represent a special category in the realm of active matter, as their size falls within the range of colloids, while their motion is so complex that it cannot be rationalized according to basic models of self-propelled particles. Indeed, the wide range of individual variability and swimming patterns resemble the behaviour of much larger animals. By analysing hundreds of three-dimensional trajectories of the planktonic copepod Clausocalanus furcatus, we investigate the possibility of detecting how the motion of this species is affected by different external conditions, such as the presence of food and the effect of gravity. While this goal is hardly achievable by direct inspection of single organism trajectories, we show that this is possible by focussing on simple average metrics commonly used to characterize colloidal suspensions, such as the mean square displacement and the dynamic correlation functions. We find that the presence of food leads to the onset of a clear localization that separates a short-time ballistic from a long-time diffusive regime. Such a benchmark reflects the tendency of C. furcatus to remain temporally feeding in a limited space and disappears when food is absent. Localization is clearly evident in the horizontal plane, but is negligible in the vertical direction, due to the effect of gravity. Our results suggest that simple average descriptors may provide concise and useful information on the swimming properties of planktonic copepods, even though single organism behaviour is strongly heterogeneous. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Other Physics Topics
- Topical issue: Fluids and Structures: Multi-scale coupling and modeling