Jasmine Nirody, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy
Seminar title: "Adaptive motility to navigate complex, changing environments"
Natural environments are heterogeneous and can fluctuate with time. As such, biomechanical systems from proteins to whole organisms have developed strategies to sense and deal with considerable spatial and temporal variability. I will discuss two (quite different!) broadly successful locomotive modes: flagellated motility in bacteria and walking in panarthropods. (1) A bacterium’s life can be complicated: it must swim through fluids of varying viscosity as well as interact with surfaces and other bacteria. We characterize the mechanosensitive adaptation in bacterial flagella that facilitates these transitions by using magnetic tweezers to manipulate external torque on the bacterial flagellar motor. Our model for the dynamics of load-dependent assembly in the flagellar motor illustrates how this nanomachine allows bacteria to adapt to changes in their surroundings. (2) Panarthropods are a diverse clade containing insects, crustaceans, myriapods and tardigrades. We show that inter-limb coordination patterns in freely-behaving tardigrades replicate several key features of walking in insects across a range of speeds and substrates. In light of these functional similarities, we propose a simple universal locomotor circuit capable of robust multi-legged control across body sizes, skeletal structures, and habitats.
The Niroday lab studies the physics of how organisms interact with (heterogeneous, dynamic) natural environments, and how these interactions shape organismal form and behavior. We ask questions that sit at the intersection of behavior, biophysics, and evolution.