Fixation and absorption in a fluctuating environment

Matan Danino, Nadav M. Shnerb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


A fundamental problem in the fields of population genetics, evolution, and community ecology, is the fate of a single mutant, or invader, introduced in a finite population of wild types. For a fixed-size community of N individuals, with Markovian, zero-sum dynamics driven by stochastic birth-death events, the mutant population eventually reaches either fixation or extinction. The classical analysis, provided by Kimura and his coworkers, is focused on the neutral case, [where the dynamics is only due to demographic stochasticity (drift)], and on time-independent selective forces (deleterious/beneficial mutation). However, both theoretical arguments and empirical analyses suggest that in many cases the selective forces fluctuate in time (temporal environmental stochasticity). Here we consider a generic model for a system with demographic noise and fluctuating selection. Our system is characterized by the time-averaged (log)-fitness s 0 and zero-mean fitness fluctuations. These fluctuations, in turn, are parameterized by their amplitude γ and their correlation time δ. We provide asymptotic (large N) formulas for the chance of fixation, the mean time to fixation and the mean time to absorption. Our expressions interpolate correctly between the constant selection limit γ → 0 and the time-averaged neutral case s 0 =0.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-92
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


This research was supported by the ISF -NRF Singapore joint research program (grant number 2669/17 ).

FundersFunder number
NRF Singapore
Israel Science Foundation2669/17


    • Absorption
    • Demographic stochasticity
    • Drift
    • Environmental stochasticity
    • Evolution
    • Fixation
    • Selection


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