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Directed movement changes coexistence outcomes in heterogeneous environments

Cite this dataset

Zhang, Bo (2021). Directed movement changes coexistence outcomes in heterogeneous environments [Dataset]. Dryad.


Understanding mechanisms of coexistence is a central topic in ecology. Mathematical analysis of models of competition between two identical species moving at different rates of symmetric diffusion in heterogeneous environments show that the slower mover excludes the faster one. The models have not been tested empirically and lack inclusions of a component of directed movement toward favorable areas. To address these gaps, we extended previous theory by explicitly including exploitable resource dynamics and directed movement. We tested the mathematical results experimentally using laboratory populations of the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. Our results not only support the previous theory that the species diffusing at a slower rate prevails in heterogeneous environments but also reveal that moderate levels of a directed movement component on top of the diffusive movement allow species to coexist. Our results broaden the theory of species coexistence in heterogeneous space and provide empirical confirmation of the mathematical predictions.


The experimental data were collected in the laboratory system of the free-living soil nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans.

The difference in final proportion of the slow mover was assessed using ANOVA across initial proportions in both heterogeneous and homogeneous environments. Assumptions of equal variance and normality were examined by the residual plots along the fitted values and the normal quantile plot, respectively.