Hydrodynamic and biological constraints on group cohesion in plankton

Romain Chaput, John E. Majoris, Peter M. Buston, Claire B. Paris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The dynamics of plankton in the ocean are determined by biophysical interactions. Although physics and biotic behaviors are known to influence the observed patchiness of planktonic populations, it is still unclear how much, and if, group behavior contributes to this biophysical interaction. Here, we demonstrate how simple rules of behavior can enhance or inhibit active group cohesion in plankton in a turbulent environment. In this study, we used coral-reef fish larvae as a model to investigate the interaction between microscale turbulence and planktonic organisms. We synthesized available information on the swimming speeds and sizes of reef fish larvae, and developed a set of equations to investigate the effects of viscosity and turbulence on larvae dispersion. We then calculated the critical dispersion rates for three different swimming strategies – cruise, random-walk, and pause-travel – to determine which strategies could facilitate group cohesion during dispersal. Our results indicate that swimming strategies and migration to low-turbulence regions are the key to maintaining group cohesion, suggesting that many reef fish species have the potential to remain together, from hatching to settlement. In addition, larvae might change their swimming strategies to maintain group cohesion, depending on environmental conditions and/or their ontogenic stage. This study provides a better understanding of the hydrodynamic and biological constraints on group formation and cohesion in planktonic organisms, and reveals a wide range of conditions under which group formation may occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109987
JournalJournal of theoretical biology
StatePublished - Dec 7 2019


  • Fluid dynamics
  • Group cohesion
  • Kolmogorov scale
  • Larvae
  • Ontogeny
  • Plankton
  • Propagules
  • Reynolds number
  • Swimming
  • Turbulence
  • Viscosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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