Killer-sensitive coexistence in metapopulations of micro-organisms

Tamás L. Czárán, Rolf F. Hoekstra

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Many micro-organisms are known to produce efficient toxic substances against conspecifics and closely related species. The widespread coexistence of killer (toxin producer) and sensitive (non-producer) strains is a puzzle calling for a theoretical explanation. Based on stochastic cellular automaton simulations and the corresponding semi-analytical configuration-field approximation models, we suggest that metapopulation dynamics offers a plausible rationale for the maintenance of polymorphism in killer-sensitive systems. A slight trade-off between toxin production and population growth rate is sufficient to maintain the regional coexistence of toxic and sensitive strains, if toxic killing is a local phenomenon restricted to small habitat patches and local populations regularly go extinct and are renewed via recolonizations from neighbouring patches. Pattern formation on the regional scale does not play a decisive part in this mechanism, but the local manner of interactions is essential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1378
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1522
Publication statusPublished - Jul 7 2003



  • Bacteriocin
  • Cellular automata
  • Coexistence
  • Killer yeast
  • Metapopulation
  • Spatial model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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