Efficient mate finding in planktonic copepods swimming in turbulence.

Research paper by François-Gaël FG Michalec, Itzhak I Fouxon, Sami S Souissi, Markus M Holzner

Indexed on: 26 Nov '20Published on: 26 Nov '20Published in: eLife


Zooplankton live in dynamic environments where turbulence may challenge their limited swimming abilities. How this interferes with fundamental behavioral processes remains elusive. We reconstruct simultaneously the trajectories of flow tracers and calanoid copepods and we quantify their ability to find mates when ambient flow imposes physical constrains on their motion and impairs their olfactory orientation. We show that copepods achieve high encounter rates in turbulence due to the contribution of advection and vigorous swimming. Males further convert encounters within the perception radius to contacts and then to mating via directed motion toward nearby organisms within the short time frame of the encounter. Inertial effects do not result in preferential concentration, reducing the geometric collision kernel to the clearance rate, which we model accurately by superposing turbulent velocity and organism motion. This behavioral and physical coupling mechanism may account for the ability of copepods to reproduce in turbulent environments. © 2020, Michalec et al.