Why do caterpillars swarm? We built a game to find out

In my last post, I broke down the science of why some caterpillars work together and form these strange, writhing formations known as rolling swarms. In a sentence: the caterpillars use their own bodies as a constantly re-assembling and dis-assembling conveyor belt, and by doing this they manage to give themselves a speed boost. If you haven’t read that post, go back and check it out.

rolling swarm caterpillars

Here’s another video of this creepy behavior:

Inspired by this notion of co-operating caterpillars, my friend Deepak decided to dig a little deeper, and try to understand why they work together in the first place.

What if, he asked, each caterpillar was just behaving selfishly, and only trying to overtake the caterpillar ahead of it? With that simple rule, would such harmonious, collective behavior emerge?

Well, we built a thing where you can play around and find out the answer for yourself. Here’s the link.

Check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments below. I welcome your thoughts, and constructive feedback. And go easy on us, this simulation was hacked together in a matter of hours, but we hope that you’ll have fun with it.