Mark Sutton – Digital organisms: simulating macroevolution in silico from first principles

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The London Evolutionary Research Network is delighted to announce the next event in our evolution seminar series, to be held on the 24th of April at 5pm in the Medawar Building (G02 Watson Lecture Theatre) at UCL.

Dr Mark Sutton of Imperial College London will be presenting a talk entitled “Digital Organisms: Simulating macroevolution in silico from first principles.” See below for the talk abstract.

Digital Organisms: Simulating macroevolution in silico from first principles

Evolution is an algorithmic process, and is hence amenable to computer simulation, providing a powerful means of evaluating the validity and theoretical underpinning of emergent evolutionary phenomena observed in nature. Simulations of microevolution are nothing new, but macroevolutionary processes and patterns (occurring over palaeontological timescales and ideally taking into account geography and complex environmental fluctuations) have not as yet been fully explored with this approach. EVOSIM is a new software package optimised for high-speed evolutionary simulation of sexually reproducing organisms over million-year timescales and fluctuating geographically constrained environments. Speciation emerges from first principles, and species origination, geographical range, and phylogeny can be tracked automatically. Environments can be modified over time, enabling events such as mass extinctions to be simulated and studied under controlled conditions. EVOSIM is still in late-stage development, but preliminary test-studies appear to demonstrate a ‘punctuated equilibrium’ pattern as an emergent phenomenon.