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We show that gyrotactic motility within a steady vortical flow leads to tightly clustered aggregations of microorganisms. Two dimensionless numbers, characterizing the relative swimming speed and stability against overturning by vorticity, govern the coupling between motility and flow. Exploration of parameter space reveals a striking array of patchiness regimes. Aggregations are found to form within a few overturning time scales, suggesting that vortical flows might be capable of efficiently separating species with different motility characteristics.

Original publication




Journal article


Phys Rev Lett

Publication Date





Biomechanical Phenomena, Biophysical Phenomena, Movement, Swimming, Viscosity, Water Microbiology