Many organisms coordinate to move and colonize over surfaces. Bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibit such surface motility as a precursor step to forming biofilms. Here we show a group surface motility where small groups of P. aeruginosa use their type IV pili (TFP) appendages over long-distances. Small cell clusters employ their TFP to move multiple cell lengths in fractions of a second and form new multicellular groups. Given the length scale and speed of displacement, cells appear to “snap” to a new position and then resume their previous behavior. The same long range TFP action also leads to rapid community contraction of sparsely arranged cell clusters. Cluster development and snapping motility does not require exogenous DNA or extracellular polysaccharides.
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