Long-tail behavior in locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans

Jun Ohkubo, Kazushi Yoshida, Yuichi Iino, Naoki Masuda*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans exhibits complex patterns. In particular, the worm combines mildly curved runs and sharp turns to steer its course. Both runs and sharp turns of various types are important components of taxis behavior. The statistics of sharp turns have been intensively studied. However, there have been few studies on runs, except for those on klinotaxis (also called weathervane mechanism), in which the worm gradually curves toward the direction with a high concentration of chemicals; this phenomenon was discovered recently. We analyzed the data of runs by excluding sharp turns. We show that the curving rate obeys long-tail distributions, which implies that large curving rates are relatively frequent. This result holds true for locomotion in environments both with and without a gradient of NaCl concentration; it is independent of klinotaxis. We propose a phenomenological computational model on the basis of a random walk with multiplicative noise. The assumption of multiplicative noise posits that the fluctuation of the force is proportional to the force exerted. The model reproduces the long-tail property present in the experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Nov 21
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemotaxis
  • Multiplicative noise
  • Nematode
  • Power law
  • Random walk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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