Leave or stay: Simulating motility and fitness of microorganisms in dynamic aquatic ecosystems

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Motility is a key adaptation factor in scarce marine environments inhabited by bacteria. The question of how a capacity for adaptive migrations influences the success of a microbial population in various conditions is a challenge addressed in this study. We employed the agent-based model of competition of motile and sedentary microbial populations in a confined aquatic environment supplied with a periodic batch nutrient source to assess the fitness of both. Such factors as nutrient concentration in a batch, batch period, mortality type and energetic costs of migration were considered to determine the conditions favouring different strategies: Nomad of a motile population and Settler of a sedentary one. The modelling results demonstrate that dynamic and nutrient-scarce environments favour motile populations, whereas nutrient-rich and stagnant environments promote sedentary microorganisms. Energetic costs of migration determine whether or not the Nomad strategy of the motile population is successful, though it also depends on such conditions as nutrient availability. Even without penalties for migration, under certain conditions, the sedentary Settler population dominates in the ecosystem. It is achieved by decreasing the local nutrient availability near the nutrient source, as motile populations relying on a local optimizing strategy tend to follow benign conditions and fail, enduring stress associated with crossing the valleys of suboptimal nutrient availability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1019
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Agent-based modelling
  • Ecological modelling
  • Marine bacteria
  • Migratory costs
  • Motility




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