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PDF (987 KB)
Pages 499-505
First published 2 July 2012

Finger-painting Fitness Landscapes: An Interactive Tool for Exploring Complex Evolutionary Dynamics.

Luis Zaman, Charles Ofria, Richard E. Lenski


Evolution involves only a few simple processes, yet the resulting dynamics are surprisingly rich and complex. Sewall Wright developed the metaphor of fitness landscapes to provide deeper insight into the complex workings of evolution. Here we extend that metaphor by visualizing in real time the dynamic processes that drive evolution. We allow viewers to construct fitness landscapes interactively while also varying key parameters including population size, mutation effect size, mode of reproduction (asexual or sexual), and densitydependent selection. This application is both mechanistic and visual, and it thereby allows the active exploration of evolutionary processes. We walk the reader through several exercises including both simple activities potentially suitable for education and examples of deeply conceptual topics that remain the focus of current research in evolutionary biology.