Document Type



Mathematics (HMC)

Publication Date



Biological aggregations such as fish schools, bird flocks, bacterial colonies, and insect swarms have characteristic morphologies governed by the group members' intrinsic social interactions with each other and by their interactions with the external environment. Starting from a simple discrete model treating individual organisms as point particles, we derive a nonlocal partial differential equation describing the evolving population density of a continuum aggregation. To study equilibria and their stability, we use tools from the calculus of variations. In one spatial dimension, and for several choices of social forces, external forces, and domains, we find exact analytical expressions for the equilibria. These solutions agree closely with numerical simulations of the underlying discrete model. The analytical solutions provide a sampling of the wide variety of equilibrium configurations possible within our general swarm modeling framework, and include features such as spatial localization with compact support, mass concentrations, and discontinuous density jumps at the edge of the group. We apply our methods to a model of locust swarms, which in nature are observed to consist of a concentrated population on the ground separated from an airborne group. Our model can reproduce this configuration; in this case quasi-two-dimensionality of the locust swarm plays a critical role.

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© 2013 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics