Complex population dynamics in a spatial microbial ecosystem with Physarum polycephalum

Jul 18, 2021·
Leo Epstein
Zeth Dubois
Jessica Smith
Yunha Lee
Kyle Harrington
· 0 min read
This research addresses the interactions between the unicellular slime mold Physarum polycephalum and a red yeast in a spatial ecosystem over week-long imaging experiments. An inverse relationship between the growth rates of both species is shown, where P. polycephalum has positive growth when the red yeast has a negative growth rate and vice versa. The data also captures successional and oscillatory dynamics between both species. An advanced image analysis methodology for semantic segmentation is used to quantify population density over time for all components of the ecosystem. We suggest that P. polycephalum is capable of exhibiting a sustainable feeding strategy by depositing a nutritive slime trail, allowing yeast to serve as a periodic food source. This opens a new direction of P. polycephalum research, where the population dynamics of spatial ecosystems can be readily quantified and complex ecological dynamics can be studied.
Biosystems, 208(104334)