Self-limiting (biology)

In biology, a self-limiting organism or colony of organisms limits its own growth by its actions.[1] For example, a single organism may have a maximum size determined by genetics, or a colony of organisms may release waste which is ultimately toxic to the colony once it exceeds a certain population. In some cases, the self-limiting nature of a colony may be advantageous to the continued survival of the colony, such as in the case of parasites. If their numbers became too high, they would kill the host, and thus themselves. In other cases, self-limitation restricts the viability of predators, thus ensuring the long-term survival of rare species.[2]

In medicine, the term may imply that a condition would run its course without the need of external influence, especially any medical treatment. However, the fact that a condition may be self-limiting does not mean that medical treatment would not bring the condition or its symptoms to an end more quickly, or that such medical attention would be unnecessary in severe cases.[3][4]


  1. ^ Yenni, Glenda Marie (2013). "Self-limitation as an explanation for species' relative abundances and the long-term persistence of rare species". All Graduate Theses and Dissertations.
  2. ^ Lötsch, Jörn; Ultschc, Alfred (2016). "A computational functional genomics based self-limiting self-concentration mechanism of cell specialization as a biological role of jumping genes". Integrative Biology. 8 (1): 91–103. doi:10.1039/C5IB00203F. PMID 26679724.
  3. ^ Pfammatter, Jean-Pierre (November 2014). "Treatment of a mostly self-limiting disease: keep it simple and safe". Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. 15 (9): 901–902. doi:10.1097/PCC.0000000000000261. ISSN 1529-7535. PMID 25370058.
  4. ^ Levin, Bruce R.; Baquero, Fernando; Ankomah, Peter Pierre; McCall, Ingrid C. (November 2017). "Phagocytes, Antibiotics, and Self-Limiting Bacterial Infections". Trends in Microbiology. 25 (11): 878–892. doi:10.1016/j.tim.2017.07.005. ISSN 1878-4380. PMID 28843668.