Swarming bacteria migrate by Lévy Walk

Gil Ariel, Amit Rabani, Sivan Benisty, Jonathan D. Partridge, Rasika M. Harshey, Avraham Be'Er

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


Individual swimming bacteria are known to bias their random trajectories in search of food and to optimize survival. The motion of bacteria within a swarm, wherein they migrate as a collective group over a solid surface, is fundamentally different as typical bacterial swarms show large-scale swirling and streaming motions involving millions to billions of cells. Here by tracking trajectories of fluorescently labelled individuals within such dense swarms, we find that the bacteria are performing super-diffusion, consistent with Lévy walks. Lévy walks are characterized by trajectories that have straight stretches for extended lengths whose variance is infinite. The evidence of super-diffusion consistent with Lévy walks in bacteria suggests that this strategy may have evolved considerably earlier than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8396
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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