**,**

__Mathematical Biosciences____Volume 196, Issue 1__, July 2005, Pages 82-98.

### Abstract

It is well known that in many scalar models for the spread of a fitter phenotype or species into the territory of a less fit one, the asymptotic spreading speed can be characterized as the lowest speed of a suitable family of traveling waves of the model. Despite a general belief that multi-species (vector) models have the same property, we are unaware of any proof to support this belief. The present work establishes this result for a class of multi-species model of a kind studied by Lui [Biological growth and spread modeled by systems of recursions. I: Mathematical theory, Math. Biosci. 93 (1989) 269] and generalized by the authors [Weinberger et al., Analysis of the linear conjecture for spread in cooperative models, J. Math. Biol. 45 (2002) 183; Lewis et al., Spreading speeds and the linear conjecture for two-species competition models, J. Math. Biol. 45 (2002) 219]. Lui showed the existence of a single spreading speed *c*^{*} for all species. For the systems in the two aforementioned studies by the authors, which include related continuous-time models such as reaction-diffusion systems, as well as some standard competition models, it sometimes happens that different species spread at different rates, so that there are a slowest speed *c*^{*} and a fastest speed . It is shown here that, for a large class of such multi-species systems, the slowest spreading speed *c*^{*} is always characterized as the slowest speed of a class of traveling wave solutions.

**Keywords: **Traveling waves; Cooperative systems; Spreading speed; Reaction-diffusion; Discrete-time systems