Apr 22, 2016

Different Evolutionary Paths to Complexity for Small and Large Populations of Digital Organisms

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Thomas LaBar, Christoph Adami


A major aim of evolutionary biology is to explain the respective roles of adaptive versus non-adaptive changes in the evolution of complexity. While selection is certainly responsible for the spread and maintenance of complex phenotypes, this does not automatically imply that strong selection enhances the chance for the emergence of novel traits, that is, the origination of complexity. Population size is one parameter that alters the relative importance of adaptive and non-adaptive processes: as population size decreases, selection weakens and genetic drift grows in importance. Because of this relationship, many theories invoke a role for population size in the evolution of complexity. Such theories are difficult to test empirically because of the time required for the evolution of complexity in biological populations. Here, we used digital experimental evolution to test whether large or small asexual populations tend to evolve greater complexity. We find that both small and large\---|but not intermediate-sized\---|populations are favored to evolve larger genomes, which provides the opportunity for subsequent increases in phenotypic complexity. However, small and large populations followed different evolutionary paths towards t...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Genetic Drift
Pathological Fracture
Population Group
Evolution, Molecular
Biological Evolution
EAF2 gene

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