A Malthusian curb on spatial structure in micro-organism populations

Martin, A.P. ORCID: 2004 A Malthusian curb on spatial structure in micro-organism populations. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 230 (3). 343-349.

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That all organisms are born in the company of a parent but die alone is a fundamental biological asymmetry. It has been suggested that this provides a deep-rooted source of spatial pattern formation for microorganisms even at the scale of the population. Such a theory, however, neglects the strong influence in nature of the limited and spatially variable availability of food. The tendency, first recognized by Thomas Malthus in the 18th century, of a population to out-strip its food resources will eventually lead, through local starvation, to the suppression of a heterogeneity growing within a population. Using a generic model it is demonstrated that including local food limitation of breeding strongly dampens spatial structure otherwise resulting from birth and death. The extent of this damping is shown to be a function of the strength of the coupling between organisms and their food and of the total abundance of organic material. Moreover, this work provides an example of a density-dependent process acting to diminish spatial structure rather than to create it and highlights the rich variety of behaviour that is missed by continuum models which fail to represent such local dynamics.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0022-5193
Additional Keywords: pattern formation, microorganisms, density dependence, consumer-resource
Date made live: 27 Oct 2004 +0 (UTC)

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