Statistical signatures of a targeted search by bacteria

Hossein Jashnsaz, Gregory G. Anderson, Steve Presse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Chemoattractant gradients are rarely well-controlled in nature and recent attention has turned to bacterial chemotaxis toward typical bacterial food sources such as food patches or even bacterial prey. In environments with localized food sources reminiscent of a bacterium's natural habitat, striking phenomena - such as the volcano effect or banding - have been predicted or expected to emerge from chemotactic models. However, in practice, from limited bacterial trajectory data it is difficult to distinguish targeted searches from an untargeted search strategy for food sources. Here we use a theoretical model to identify statistical signatures of a targeted search toward point food sources, such as prey. Our model is constructed on the basis that bacteria use temporal comparisons to bias their random walk, exhibit finite memory and are subject to random (Brownian) motion as well as signaling noise. The advantage with using a stochastic model-based approach is that a stochastic model may be parametrized from individual stochastic bacterial trajectories but may then be used to generate a very large number of simulated trajectories to explore average behaviors obtained from stochastic search strategies. For example, our model predicts that a bacterium's diffusion coefficient increases as it approaches the point source and that, in the presence of multiple sources, bacteria may take substantially longer to locate their first source giving the impression of an untargeted search strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065002
JournalPhysical biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 3 2017


  • bacteria
  • bdellovibrio
  • chemotaxis
  • predator-prey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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