Rulands, Steffen; Reichenbach, Tobias; Frey, Erwin (27. Januar 2011): Three-fold way to extinction in populations of cyclically competing species. In: Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, Nr. 1, L01003




Species extinction occurs regularly and unavoidably in ecological systems. The time scales for extinction can broadly vary and inform on the ecosystem's stability. We study the spatio-temporal extinction dynamics of a paradigmatic population model where three species exhibit cyclic competition. The cyclic dynamics reflects the non-equilibrium nature of the species interactions. While previous work focusses on the coarsening process as a mechanism that drives the system to extinction, we found that unexpectedly the dynamics to extinction is much richer. We observed three different types of dynamics. In addition to coarsening, in the evolutionary relevant limit of large times, oscillating traveling waves and heteroclinic orbits play a dominant role. The weight of the different processes depends on the degree of mixing and the system size. By analytical arguments and extensive numerical simulations we provide the full characteristics of scenarios leading to extinction in one of the most surprising models of ecology