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Phys Rev Lett. 2015 Sep 11;115(11):118104. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.118104. Epub 2015 Sep 10.

Intrinsic fluctuations and driven response of insect swarms.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
Department of Physics, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325, USA.
Departments of Physics, Applied Physics, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, and Cell Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Animals of all sizes form groups, as acting together can convey advantages over acting alone; thus, collective animal behavior has been identified as a promising template for designing engineered systems. However, models and observations have focused predominantly on characterizing the overall group morphology, and often focus on highly ordered groups such as bird flocks. We instead study a disorganized aggregation (an insect mating swarm), and compare its natural fluctuations with the group-level response to an external stimulus. We quantify the swarm's frequency-dependent linear response and its spectrum of intrinsic fluctuations, and show that the ratio of these two quantities has a simple scaling with frequency. Our results provide a new way of comparing models of collective behavior with experimental data.

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