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When worms stick together and swim on thin water, what happens and why does it matter?
Date:2/8/2011

the side of their container and sticking together. We knew part of the reason for this behavior was due to the capillary force, the same force that causes Cheerios to stick together in a cereal bowl, but we wanted to see whether or not the nematodes moved faster or more efficiently while stuck together," Jung and Gart explained.

"Thin water refers to the air/liquid interface. Like Cheerios in milk, the nematodes are aggregating on top of the air surface, not on the bulk or on the bottom," Jung said.

Gart has been working in Virginia Tech's Biologically Inspired Fluids Laboratory directed by Jung since last summer. Gart found that the nematodes did not crawl faster or more efficiently while stuck together.

"This is an interesting behavior that has not been studied very widely in the biolocomotion field," Jung said. "The result implies that nematodes gain neither a mechanical advantage nor disadvantage by being grouped together. The capillary forces merely keep them together after a chance encounter. This result also extends a better understanding of capillary effects in colloidal particles in engineering systems such as pickering emulsions. These emulsions are stabilized by solid particles. An example would be homogenized milk."


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Contact: Lynn Nystrom
tansy@vt.edu
540-231-4371
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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