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Hydrodynamic Benefits and Self-Organization in Groups of Flow-Coupled Swimmers


Core Concepts
Passive flow interactions lead to the spontaneous self-organization of groups of flapping swimmers into stable spatial formations that differentially distribute hydrodynamic benefits among the group members.
Abstract
The study investigates how passive flow interactions mediate the self-organization of groups of flapping swimmers into stable spatial formations and the associated energetic benefits. Key findings: Pairs of swimmers self-organize into inline, diagonal, or side-by-side formations, depending on their flapping phase and initial conditions. These emergent formations can be predicted from the wake of a single solitary swimmer. In side-by-side formations, the hydrodynamic benefits are shared equally among the swimmers. In leader-follower formations (inline or diagonal), the benefits are bestowed entirely on the follower. As the group size increases, side-by-side formations remain robust and cohesive, while inline formations lose cohesion beyond a critical group size. This critical size depends on the fluid properties. The unequal distribution of hydrodynamic benefits in inline formations, with the leader always disadvantaged, suggests a connection between flow physics and social traits like greed versus cooperation in animal groups. The study provides efficient diagnostic tools to predict the emergent spatial patterns and associated energetic advantages in groups of flow-coupled swimmers, with implications for understanding collective behavior in biological and engineered systems.
Stats
The power savings of the follower swimmer in inline and diagonal formations can be as high as 60% compared to solitary swimming. In side-by-side inphase formations, the power savings are shared equally between the two swimmers. In side-by-side antiphase formations, both swimmers incur an increase in cost of transport compared to solitary swimming.
Quotes
"Importantly, we showed that the wake of a solitary leader contains information that unveils opportunities for the emergence of stable and energetically-favorable formations in pairs of swimmers." "Our results hint at a connection between flow physics and what is traditionally thought of as social traits: greed versus cooperation."

Deeper Inquiries

How do the findings of this study apply to three-dimensional swimming and flying animal groups

The findings of this study can be extended to three-dimensional swimming and flying animal groups by considering the additional complexities and dynamics that arise in 3D environments. In three dimensions, the flow interactions and hydrodynamic benefits experienced by individuals within a group would be more intricate due to the added spatial dimensions. The principles of self-organization observed in this study, such as the emergence of stable formations and the distribution of hydrodynamic benefits, would still hold true in 3D settings. However, the interactions and dynamics would be more complex, requiring a deeper understanding of the fluid dynamics in three dimensions. In three-dimensional swimming and flying animal groups, the unequal distribution of hydrodynamic benefits in inline formations could have significant implications for the evolution of cooperative versus greedy behavior. The fact that trailing swimmers receive the most hydrodynamic benefits in inline formations may lead to competition among group members to occupy these advantageous positions. This competition for benefits could drive behaviors such as greed and selfishness, where individuals strive to maximize their own advantages at the expense of others. On the other hand, cooperative behaviors may also emerge as individuals work together to maintain cohesion and maximize the overall efficiency of the group. The unequal distribution of benefits could influence the social dynamics within the group, shaping the evolution of cooperative and competitive strategies.

What are the potential implications of the unequal distribution of hydrodynamic benefits in inline formations on the evolution of cooperative versus greedy behavior in animal groups

The unequal distribution of hydrodynamic benefits in inline formations could have profound implications for the evolution of cooperative versus greedy behavior in animal groups. In inline formations, where trailing swimmers receive the most hydrodynamic benefits, there may be a natural tendency for individuals to compete for these advantageous positions. This competition for benefits could lead to behaviors characterized by greed and selfishness, as individuals strive to maximize their own advantages within the group. On the other hand, individuals may also exhibit cooperative behaviors to maintain cohesion and maximize the overall efficiency of the group. The findings of this study suggest that the distribution of resources generated by flow physics could influence social traits and behaviors in animal groups. The dynamic repositioning of group members to occupy hydrodynamically advantageous positions could be driven by a combination of greed and competition for resources. This interplay between hydrodynamic benefits and social behaviors could have played a role in the evolution of cooperative and greedy strategies in animal groups. By understanding how flow physics influences social dynamics, we can gain insights into the evolutionary pressures that have shaped cooperative and competitive behaviors in animal societies.

Could the principles of self-organization and energy optimization discovered in this study be applied to the design of efficient multi-agent robotic systems, such as swarms of autonomous vehicles

The principles of self-organization and energy optimization discovered in this study have significant potential applications in the design of efficient multi-agent robotic systems, such as swarms of autonomous vehicles. By leveraging the insights gained from the study of flow-coupled swimmers, researchers can develop algorithms and control strategies for coordinating the movements of robotic agents to achieve desired tasks while minimizing energy consumption and improving overall system efficiency. One potential application is in the field of swarm robotics, where groups of autonomous robots collaborate to perform tasks in a coordinated manner. By applying the principles of self-organization observed in fish schools, researchers can design algorithms that enable robotic swarms to dynamically adjust their spatial formations to optimize energy efficiency and task performance. For example, robotic swarms could adapt their formations based on environmental conditions or task requirements to maximize energy savings and overall system efficiency. Additionally, the insights from this study could inform the design of bio-inspired robotic systems that mimic the collective behaviors of animal groups. By incorporating principles of flow physics and hydrodynamic benefits into the control algorithms of robotic swarms, researchers can develop more efficient and adaptive multi-agent systems. These bio-inspired robotic systems could be used in various applications, such as environmental monitoring, search and rescue missions, and infrastructure maintenance, where energy efficiency and coordination are crucial for success.
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