Event Title

The Origin of Cellularity and Organismal Individuality in Digital Life Simulations

Presenter Information

Diep Nguyen, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 239

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2019 4:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2019 5:20 PM

Abstract

The cellular structure of organisms is a potentially adaptive trait that was produced by evolutionary processes. In order to study this evolutionary transition, we have created a virtual ecosystem that allows us to examine various pressures and their relationship to the evolution of cellularity. Digital organisms in the virtual ecosystem have evolvable genomes that allow them to solve food puzzles and acquire energy in order to reproduce. The same genomes contain genes that, together, confer a level of cellularity for the organism. Organisms with low cellularity may lose their own energy rewards from food puzzles but may also acquire energy from the environmental pool. Additionally, these organisms gain or lose genes due to horizontal transfer at higher rates. Through the model, we find that the selection for cellularity directly depends on the environmental energy abundance. When environmental energy is surplus, organisms tend to evolve toward low cellularity; when the energy is depleted, organisms tend to evolve toward high cellularity. Moreover, the level of cellularity and the efficiency of metabolism show a very strong correlation, suggesting that these two features co-evolved in early evolutionary history.

Keywords:

astrobiology, cellularity, artificial life, computer simulation

Notes

Session VI, Panel 17 - Computer | Simulation
Moderator: Jason Stalnaker, Associate Professor of Physics

Major

Biology

Advisor(s)

Maureen Peters, Biology

Project Mentor(s)

Aaron Goldman, Biology

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Apr 27th, 4:00 PM Apr 27th, 5:20 PM

The Origin of Cellularity and Organismal Individuality in Digital Life Simulations

King Building 239

The cellular structure of organisms is a potentially adaptive trait that was produced by evolutionary processes. In order to study this evolutionary transition, we have created a virtual ecosystem that allows us to examine various pressures and their relationship to the evolution of cellularity. Digital organisms in the virtual ecosystem have evolvable genomes that allow them to solve food puzzles and acquire energy in order to reproduce. The same genomes contain genes that, together, confer a level of cellularity for the organism. Organisms with low cellularity may lose their own energy rewards from food puzzles but may also acquire energy from the environmental pool. Additionally, these organisms gain or lose genes due to horizontal transfer at higher rates. Through the model, we find that the selection for cellularity directly depends on the environmental energy abundance. When environmental energy is surplus, organisms tend to evolve toward low cellularity; when the energy is depleted, organisms tend to evolve toward high cellularity. Moreover, the level of cellularity and the efficiency of metabolism show a very strong correlation, suggesting that these two features co-evolved in early evolutionary history.