In a systematic viewpoint, bistability refers to the existence of two stable equilibriums for a biological system. But, I don't understand the difference between bistability and bimodality. In both cases, the system should have two different behaviors, so I guess bistability is a specific case of bimodality, in which either of the system's behaviors might not be stable. Is this a valid distinction between these terms?

  • $\begingroup$ I am not a big system biologist, so I am not really used to the terms used in this discippline. In statistics bimodality simply refers to the existence of two peaks in the frequency distribution of a variable. Do you think you could add a quote just so that we have a context in which those terms are being used? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 10 '18 at 23:00

Bistability referrers to two coexisting stable conditions (if you disrupt they will tend to restore to one of those two areas) and has a slightly broader application it can also involve chemical stability for instance. Bistability includes the element of stability (obvious in the name) if disrupted bistable condition tend to return to one of two stable configurations. Enzyme stable configurations could be another. Galapagos finch beak shape during wet years is the one I think of but that could also be argued as tri-stable. to go really simple you can even think of a clicky pen, fully clicked is stable and unclicked is stable but anything else immediately moves to one of the other states.

Bimodal just means the distribution has two peaks, they may or may not be stable, many are only temporary. It is a much simpler concept.

Another way to consider it is bimodal is purely descriptive while bistability has a predictive quality.

  • $\begingroup$ It is a little unclear to me the distribution of what has two peaks. That's why I think we would need a specific quote to discuss. Also, talking about bi-stability and sex. The variable to the system could be sex-ratio typically, in which, such systems typically have a single stable equilibrium at 0.5. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 11 '18 at 2:31
  • $\begingroup$ For the sex thing sure it all in how you describe it, as a variable in a population it is bistable but it can of course also be described as a ratio, or in a number of other ways. I t will just add confusion so I will delete it. As I said bistability is Not a purely a statistical term unike bimodal. biochemical stability can be a good example as many enzymes will have two stable configurations with all the inbetween configurations being unstable. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 11 '18 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ To expand on what you said, bistability in the dynamics of a system can result in bimodality of the distribution of whatever the system does or makes. $\endgroup$ – jaia Jan 12 '18 at 2:05

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