Rare events in stochastic populations under bursty reproduction

Shay Be'Er, Michael Assaf

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15 Scopus citations


Recently, a first step was made by the authors towards a systematic investigation of the effect of reaction-step-size noise - uncertainty in the step size of the reaction - on the dynamics of stochastic populations. This was done by investigating the effect of bursty influx on the switching dynamics of stochastic populations. Here we extend this formalism to account for bursty reproduction processes, and improve the accuracy of the formalism to include subleading-order corrections. Bursty reproduction appears in various contexts, where notable examples include bursty viral production from infected cells, and reproduction of mammals involving varying number of offspring. The main question we quantitatively address is how bursty reproduction affects the overall fate of the population. We consider two complementary scenarios: population extinction and population survival; in the former a population gets extinct after maintaining a long-lived metastable state, whereas in the latter a population proliferates despite undergoing a deterministic drift towards extinction. In both models reproduction occurs in bursts, sampled from an arbitrary distribution. Using the WKB approach, we show in the extinction problem that bursty reproduction broadens the quasi-stationary distribution of population sizes in the metastable state, which results in a drastic reduction of the mean time to extinction compared to the non-bursty case. In the survival problem, it is shown that bursty reproduction drastically increases the survival probability of the population. Close to the bifurcation limit our analytical results simplify considerably and are shown to depend solely on the mean and variance of the burst-size distribution. Our formalism is demonstrated on several realistic distributions which all compare well with numerical Monte-Carlo simulations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number113501
JournalJournal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment
Issue number11
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

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© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd and SISSA Medialab srl.


  • Large deviations in non-equilibrium systems
  • Metastable states
  • Population dynamics
  • Stochastic processes


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