C. elegans colony formation as a phase separation phenomenon
- Phase separation at the molecular scale affects many biological processes. The theoretical requirements for phase separation are fairly minimal, and there is growing evidence that analogous phenomena occur at other scales in biology. Here we have examined colony formation in the nematode C. elegans as a possible example of phase separation by a population of organisms. The population density of worms was found to determine whether a colony would form in a thresholded fashion, with the threshold correctly predicted by a simple two-compartment model. Furthermore, small, round colonies sometimes fused to form larger, round colonies, and we found examples of a phenomenon akin to Ostwald ripening – a coarsening process seen in many systems that undergo phase separation. These findings support the emerging view that the principles of microscopic phase separation can also apply to collective behaviors of living organisms.
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|[ca. July 20, 2021]
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