Noise-induced stabilization and fixation in fluctuating environment

Immanuel Meyer, Nadav M. Shnerb

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The dynamics of a two-species community of N competing individuals are considered, with an emphasis on the role of environmental variations that affect coherently the fitness of entire populations. The chance of fixation of a mutant (or invading) population is calculated as a function of its mean relative fitness, the amplitude of fitness variations and their typical duration. We emphasize the distinction between the case of pairwise competition and the case of global competition; in the latter a noise-induced stabilization mechanism yields a higher chance of fixation for a single mutant. This distinction becomes dramatic in the weak selection regime, where the chance of fixation for a single deleterious mutant is an N-independent constant for global competition and decays like (ln N)-1 in the pairwise competition case. A Wentzel-Kramers-Brillouin (WKB) technique yields a general formula for the chance of fixation of a deleterious mutant in the strong selection regime. The possibility of long-term persistence of large [O(N)] suboptimal (and extinction-prone) populations is discussed, as well as its relevance to stochastic tunneling between fitness peaks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9726
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 27 Jun 2018

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