Fine-scale diversity of microbial communities due to satellite niches in boom and bust environments

Yulia Fridman, Zihan Wang, Sergei Maslov, Akshit Goyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent observations have revealed that closely related strains of the same microbial species can stably coexist in natural and laboratory settings subject to boom and bust dynamics and serial dilutions, respectively. However, the possible mechanisms enabling the coexistence of only a handful of strains, but not more, have thus far remained unknown. Here, using a consumer-resource model of microbial ecosystems, we propose that by differentiating along Monod parameters characterizing microbial growth rates in high and low nutrient conditions, strains can coexist in patterns similar to those observed. In our model, boom and bust environments create satellite niches due to resource concentrations varying in time. These satellite niches can be occupied by closely related strains, thereby enabling their coexistence. We demonstrate that this result is valid even in complex environments consisting of multiple resources and species. In these complex communities, each species partitions resources differently and creates separate sets of satellite niches for their own strains. While there is no theoretical limit to the number of coexisting strains, in our simulations, we always find between 1 and 3 strains coexisting, consistent with known experiments and observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1010244
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 27 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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