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Phys Rev Lett. 2017 Sep 8;119(10):108103. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.108103. Epub 2017 Sep 8.

Bet Hedging against Demographic Fluctuations.

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The Simons Center for Systems Biology, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA.
Laboratory of Living Matter and Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10065, USA.


Biological organisms have to cope with stochastic variations in both the external environment and the internal population dynamics. Theoretical studies and laboratory experiments suggest that population diversification could be an effective bet-hedging strategy for adaptation to varying environments. Here we show that bet hedging can also be effective against demographic fluctuations that pose a trade-off between growth and survival for populations even in a constant environment. A species can maximize its overall abundance in the long term by diversifying into coexisting subpopulations of both "fast-growing" and "better-surviving" individuals. Our model generalizes statistical physics models of birth-death processes to incorporate dispersal, during which new populations are founded, and can further incorporate variations of local environments. In this way, we unify different bet-hedging strategies against demographic and environmental variations as a general means of adaptation to both types of uncertainties in population growth.

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