Synchronized oscillations in swarms of nematode Turbatrix aceti†
There is a recent surge of interest in the behavior of active particles that can at the same time align their direction of movement and synchronize their oscillations, known as swarmalators. While theoretical and numerical models of such systems are now abundant, no real-life examples have been shown to date. We present an experimental investigation of the collective motion of the nematode Turbatrix aceti that self-propel by body undulation. We discover that these nematodes can synchronize their body oscillations, forming striking traveling metachronal waves, which produces strong fluid flows. We uncover that the location and strength of this collective state can be controlled through the shape of the confining structure; in our case the contact angle of a droplet. This opens a way for producing controlled work such as on-demand flows or displacement of objects. We illustrate this by showing that the force generated by this state is sufficient to change the physics of evaporation of fluid droplets, by counteracting the surface-tension force, which allow us to estimate its strength. The relatively large size and ease of culture make Turbatrix aceti a promising model organism for experimental investigation of swarming and oscillating active matter capable of producing controllable work.