The rate of expansion of bacterial colonies of S. liquefaciens is investigated in terms of a mathematical model that combines biological as well as hydrodynamic processes. The relative importance of cell differentiation and production of an extracellular wetting agent to bacterial swarming is explored using a continuum representation. The model incorporates aspects of thin film flow with variable suspension viscosity, wetting, and cell differentiation. Experimental evidence suggests that the bacterial colony is highly sensitive to its environment and that a variety of mechanisms are exploited in order to proliferate on a variety of surfaces. It is found that a combination of effects are required to reproduce the variation of bacterial colony motility over a large range of nutrient availability and medium hardness
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