QBioS Student Seminar Series - Kelimar Diaz

Maneuvering Strategies of C. elegans Locomotion in Heterogeneous Environments

Elongate animals (e.g., snakes, nematodes) propagate waves of body curvature to generate propulsion in dissipative environments. In particular, the nematode worm C. elegans lives in environments (e.g., rotting fruit) where maneuverability is crucial to overcome heterogeneities and post-interaction deformations. To search for steering control principles in undulatory locomotion, we studied C. elegans traversing both agar, liquid buffer, and lattices. These worms generate a time-dependent omega-like shape for reorientation to achieve high body rotation independent of the environment. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed the worms use four principal components during turning, superimposing two body traveling waves with two spatial frequencies. A geometric mechanics framework rationalized the observed turning dynamics by properly coupling the amplitude and the phase of the two body traveling waves. These results and robophysical experiments, implementing the behavior, suggest that omega turns are a robust strategy for turning in diverse environments.

The seminar will be hosted at this bluejeans link.