Bacterial Route Finding and Collective Escape in Mazes and Fractals

Trung V. Phan, Ryan Morris, Matthew E. Black, Tuan K. Do, Ke Chih Lin, Krisztina Nagy, James C. Sturm, Julia Bos, Robert H. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Bacteria which grow not on the featureless agar plates of the microbiology lab but in the real world must navigate topologies which are nontrivially complex, such as mazes or fractals. We show that chemosensitive motile E. coli can efficiently explore nontrivial mazes in times much shorter than a no-memory (Markovian) walk would predict, and can collectively escape from a fractal topology. The strategies used by the bacteria include individual power-law probability distribution function exploration, the launching of chemotactic collective waves with preferential branching at maze nodes and defeating of fractal pumping, and bet hedging in case the more risky attempts to find food fail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number031017
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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