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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/978-0-262-32621-6-ch019
Pages 113-120
First published 30 July 2014

Building on Simplicity: Multi-stage Evolution of Digital Organisms

Laura M. Grabowski, Javier A. Magaña

Abstract (Excerpt)

The issue of how complex organismal features and functions arise through evolution remains a topic of great interest to researchers. We used digital organisms to investigate how simpler capabilities that evolved earlier may provide stepping stones for evolving new features. Populations of digital organisms evolved in environments of varying complexity where survival required different uses of memory. We conducted experiments that used different initial ancestors for populations: (1) an ancestor with only the ability to selfreplicate, evolved in each of the four types of experimental environments; (2) successful organisms from one environment seeded populations that continued to evolve in one additional environment ("one level" transfer); (3) successful organisms were transferred progressively from the simplest environment to the most complex ("waterfall" transfer). We found that the difference in performance of the most successful organisms at the end of evolution was significantly different (1) when the original environment differed little from the new environment, and (2) when the original environment produced adaptations that provided memory and use of previous life experience.