Skip navigation
PDF (521 KB)
Pages 333-340
First published 2 July 2012

Informational Drives for Sensor Evolution

Sander G. van Dijk, Daniel Polani


It has been hypothesized that the evolution of sensors is a pivotal driver for the evolution of organisms, and especially, as a crucial part of the perception-action loop, a driver for cognitive development. The questions of why and how this is the case are important: what are the principles that push the evolution of sensorimotor systems? An interesting aspect of this problem is the co-option of sensors for functions other than those originally driving their development (e.g. the auditive sense of bats being employed as a 'visual' modality). Even more striking is the phenomenon found in nature of sensors being driven to the limits of precision, while starting from much simpler beginnings. While a large potential for diversification and exaptation is visible in the observed phenotypes, gaining a deeper understanding of why and how this can be achieved is a significant problem. In this present paper, we will introduce a formal and generic informationtheoretic model for understanding potential drives of sensor evolution, both in terms of improving sensory ability and in terms of extending and/or shifting sensory function.