Coordinated dynamics of individual components in active matter are an essential aspect of life on all scales. Establishing a comprehensive, causal connection between intracellular, intercellular, and macroscopic behaviors has remained a major challenge due to limitations in data acquisition and analysis techniques suitable for multiscale dynamics. Here, we combine a high-throughput adaptive microscopy approach with machine learning, to identify key biological and physical mechanisms that determine distinct microscopic and macroscopic collective behavior phases which develop as Bacillus subtilis swarms expand over five orders of magnitude in space. Our experiments, continuum modeling, and particle-based simulations reveal that macroscopic swarm expansion is primarily driven by cellular growth kinetics, whereas the microscopic swarming motility phases are dominated by physical cell-cell interactions. These results provide a unified understanding of bacterial multiscale behavioral complexity in swarms.
Keywords: biofilm; cell–cell interactions; collective behavior; microbiology; swarming.
Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.