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Dormancy in stochastic interacting systems

Organisms often need to adapt more efficiently and devise new strategies for surviving difficult ecological circumstances.

Nandan, S.
11 May 2023
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Mammals indeed spend the winter in hibernation to conserve energy, food, etc., for future purposes. Microbial populations also possess similar characteristics, where organisms enter into a state of low metabolic activity in response to adverse environmental conditions. In plant populations, the analogous strategy is the suspension of seed germination for an extended period of time. Several studies suggest that this bet-hedging strategy has important evolutionary consequences and plays a crucial role in maintaining genetic diversities in a population. In this thesis, we draw motivations from biological populations featuring this trait and investigate its effect in a probabilistic framework. In particular, we introduce a mathematical notion of dormancy in several well-known stochastic interacting systems and study how it changes the qualitative and quantitative properties of the systems by characterizing their behaviors in the long run. The construction of our model is built upon a well-known stochastic process in mathematical population genetics called the Moran model. The Moran model describes the genetic evolution of a single, reproductively active, finite population without seed-bank. We modify the model to include dormancy and extend it to the context of spatially structured populations with varying sizes.

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