Tag Archives: Biology

Simpler Math Tames the Complexity of Microbe Networks

Over the past century, scientists have become adept at plotting the ecological interactions of the diverse organisms that populate the planet’s forests, plains and seas. They have established powerful mathematical techniques to describe systems ranging from the carbon cycles driven by plants to the predator-prey dynamics that dictate the behavior of lions and gazelles. Understanding the inner workings of microbial communities that can involve hundreds or thousands of microscopic species, however, poses a far greater challenge.

Microbes nourish each other and engage in chemical warfare; their behavior shifts with their spatial arrangements and with the identities of their neighbors; they function as populations of separate species but also as a cohesive whole that can at times resemble a single organism. Data collected from these … Read the rest