DOI: 10.1162/artl_a_00429 ISSN: 1064-5462

Simulating the Effect of Environmental Change on Evolving Populations

John A. Bullinaria
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


This study uses evolutionary simulations to explore the strategies that emerge to enable populations to cope with random environmental changes in situations where lifetime learning approaches are not available to accommodate them. In particular, it investigates how the average magnitude of change per unit time and the persistence of the changes (and hence the resulting autocorrelation of the environmental time series) affect the change tolerances, population diversities, and extinction timescales that emerge. Although it is the change persistence (often discussed in terms of environmental noise color) that has received most attention in the recent literature, other factors, particularly the average change magnitude, interact with this and can be more important drivers of the adaptive strategies that emerge. Moreover, when running simulations, the choice of change representation and normalization can also affect the outcomes. Detailed simulations are presented that are designed to explore all these issues. They also reveal significant dependences on the associated mutation rates and the extent to which they can evolve, and they clarify how evolution often leads populations into strategies with higher risks of extinction. Overall, this study shows how modeling the effect of environmental change requires more care than may have previously been realized.

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