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Social flocculation in plant–animal worms

Worley, Alan; Sendova-Franks, Ana; Franks, Nigel


Alan Worley

Ana Sendova-Franks
Associate Professor in Biometry & Animal Behaviour

Nigel Franks


Individual animals can often move more safely or more efficiently as members of a group. This can be as simple as safety in numbers or as sophisticated as aerodynamic or hydrodynamic cooperation. Here, we show that individual plant–animal worms (Symsagittifera roscoffensis) can move to safety more quickly through flocculation. Flocs form in response to turbulence that might otherwise carry these beach-dwelling worms out to sea. They allow the worms to descend much more quickly to the safety of the substrate than single worms could swim. Descent speed increases with floc size such that larger flocs can catch up with smaller ones and engulf them to become even larger and faster. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of social flocculation in a wild, multicellular organism. It is also remarkable that such effective flocculation occurs where the components are comparatively large multicellular organisms organized as entangled ensembles.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Publisher Royal Society, The
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 181626
APA6 Citation Worley, A., Sendova-Franks, A., & Franks, N. (in press). Social flocculation in plant–animal worms. Royal Society Open Science, 6(181626),
Keywords collective behaviour, animal movement, flocculation
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs ttps://
Additional Information Additional Information : The two uploaded files are the paper and the document supplementary material. The related URL is to a video supplementary material.


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