A model of the effect of uncertainty on the C elegans L2/L2d decision

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 16;9(7):e100580. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100580. eCollection 2014.


At the end of the first larval stage, the C elegans larva chooses between two developmental pathways, an L2 committed to reproductive development and an L2d, which has the option of undergoing reproductive development or entering the dauer diapause. I develop a quantitative model of this choice using mathematical tools developed for pricing financial options. The model predicts that the optimal decision must take into account not only the expected potential for reproductive growth, but also the uncertainty in that expected potential. Because the L2d has more flexibility than the L2, it is favored in unpredictable environments. I estimate that the ability to take uncertainty into account may increase reproductive value by as much as 5%, and discuss possible experimental tests for this ability.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Models, Biological*
  • Reproduction
  • Uncertainty*