Postprint version. Published in Biophysical Journal, Volume 58, Issue 2, August 1, 1990, pages 549-555. Copyright © 1990 The Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(90)82398-5.
The relative numbers of North-seeking and South-seeking polarity types in natural populations of magnetotactic bacteria were determined at sites on the coast of Brazil. These sites were South of the geomagnetic equator and had upward geomagnetic inclinations of 1–12°. For upward inclinations >6°, South-seeking cells predominated over North-seeking cells by more than a factor of 10. For upward inclinations <6°, the fraction of North-seeking cells in the population increased with decreasing geomagnetic inclination, approaching 0.5 at the geomagnetic equator. We present a simple statistical model of a stochastic process that qualitatively accounts for the dynamics of the two polarity types in a magnetotactic bacterial population as a function of the geomagnetic field inclination.