Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • News & Views
  • Published:

Excitable media

Bacteria spiral into control

Spiral waves of cell density can form and propagate through bacterial biofilms. These waves are formed by a self-organization process that coordinates pulling forces between neighbouring cells.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Formation of spiral waves of bacterial cell density.


  1. Liu, S., Li, Y., Wang, Y. & Wu, Y. Nat. Phys. (2024).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Gray, R. A., Pertsov, A. M. & Jalife, J. Nature 392, 75–78 (1998).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Xu, Y., Long, X., Feng, J. & Gong, P. Nat. Hum. Behav. 7, 1196–1215 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Maier, B., Koomey, M. & Sheetz, M. P. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101, 10961–10966 (2004).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Persat, A., Inclan, Y. F., Engel, J. N., Stone, H. A. & Gitai, Z. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112, 7563–7568 (2015).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Koch, M. D., Black, M. E., Han, E., Shaevitz, J. W. & Gitai, Z. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 119, e2119434119 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Kühn, M. J. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 118, e2101759118 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Prindle, A. et al. Nature 527, 59–63 (2015).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Copenhagen, K., Alert, R., Wingreen, N. S. & Shaevitz, J. W. Nat. Phys. 17, 211–215 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Ichino, T. et al. J. Phys. Chem. C 112, 3032–3035 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Guram Gogia or David R. Johnson.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gogia, G., Johnson, D.R. Bacteria spiral into control. Nat. Phys. (2024).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing