Distinctive diffusive properties of swimming planktonic copepods in different environmental conditions

Raffaele Pastore, Marco Uttieri, Giuseppe Bianco, Maurizio Ribera d’Alcalá, Maria Grazia Mazzocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number79
JournalEuropean Physical Journal E. Soft Matter
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology
  • Other Physics Topics

Free keywords

  • Topical issue: Fluids and Structures: Multi-scale coupling and modeling


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