A virus-bacteria coevolutionary 'arms race' solves the diversity paradox by 'Killing the Winner'

Siv Schwink

There is remarkable biodiversity in all but the most extreme ecosystems on Earth. When many species are competing for the same finite resource, a theory called competitive exclusion suggests one species will outperform the others and drive them to extinction, limiting biodiversity. But this isn’t what we observe in nature. Theoretical models of population dynamics have not presented a fully satisfactory explanation for what has come to be known as the diversity paradox.

Now researchers at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have shed new light on this fundamental question in ecology, by improving a popular proposed scenario for diversity known as “Kill the Winner.” Chi Xue and Nigel Goldenfeld, supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute for Universal Biology, which Goldenfeld directs, approached the diversity paradox from the perspective of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics.

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