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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.
Copyright: © 2014 Leon Avery. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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VCU Physiology and Biophysics Publications