Plankton motility patterns and encounter rates

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Many planktonic organisms have motility patterns with correlation run lengths (distances traversed before direction changes) of the same order as their reaction distances regarding prey, mates and predators (distances at which these organisms are remotely detected). At these scales, the relative measure of run length to reaction distance determines whether the underlying encounter is ballistic or diffusive. Since ballistic interactions are intrinsically more efficient than diffusive, we predict that organisms will display motility with long correlation run lengths compared to their reaction distances to their prey, but short compared to the reaction distances of their predators. We show motility data for planktonic organisms ranging from bacteria to copepods that support this prediction. We also present simple ballistic and diffusive motility models for estimating encounter rates, which lead to radically different predictions, and we present a simple criterion to determine which model is the more appropriate in a given case.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)538-546
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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