Student Author

Julia A. Giannini '18, Gettysburg College

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1



Collective behaviors displayed by groups of social animals are observed frequently in nature. Understanding and predicting the behavior of complex biological systems is dependent on developing effective descriptions and models. While collective animal systems are characteristically nonequilibrium, we can employ concepts from equilibrium statistical mechanics to motivate the measurement of material-like properties in laboratory animal aggregates. Here, we present results from a new set of experiments that utilize high speed footage of two-dimensional schooling events, particle tracking, and projected static and dynamic light fields to observe and control the behavior of negatively phototaxic fish schools (Hemigrammus bleheri). First, we use static light fields consisting of dark circular regions to produce visual stimuli that confine the schools to a range of areas. We find that schools have a maximum density which is independent of group size, and that a swim pressurelike quantity, Π increases linearly with number density, suggesting that unperturbed schools exist on an isotherm. Next, we use dynamic light fields where the radius of the dark region shrinks linearly with time to compress the schools. We find that an effective temperature parameter depends on the compression time and our results are thus consistent with the school having a constant heat flux. These findings further evidence the utility of effective thermodynamic descriptions of nonequilibrium systems in collective animal behavior.





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