The emergence of lines of hierarchy in collective motion of biological systems

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James M Greene et al 2023 Phys. Biol. 20 055001.


The emergence of large-scale structures in biological systems, and in particular the formation of lines of hierarchy, is observed at many scales, from collections of cells to groups of insects to herds of animals. Motivated by phenomena in chemotaxis and phototaxis, we present a new class of alignment models that exhibit alignment into lines. The spontaneous formation of such ‘fingers’ can be interpreted as the emergence of leaders and followers in a system of identically interacting agents. Various numerical examples are provided, which demonstrate emergent behaviors similar to the ‘fingering’ phenomenon observed in some phototaxis and chemotaxis experiments; this phenomenon is generally known to be a challenging pattern for existing models to capture. A novel protocol for pairwise interactions provides a fundamental alignment mechanism by which agents may form lines of hierarchy across a wide range of biological systems.