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Speciation in Digital Organisms


Chow, Stephanie Sienyee (2005) Speciation in Digital Organisms. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/X1PD-TN75.


Current estimates of the number of species on Earth range from four to forty million total species. Why are there so many species? The answer must include both ecology and evolution. Ecology looks at the interactions between coexisting species, while evolution tracks them through time. Both are required to understand aspects of environments which promote speciation, and which promote species persistence in time.

The explanation for this biodiversity is still not well understood. I argue that resource limitations are a major factor in the evolutionary origin of complex ecosystems with interacting and persistent species. Through experiments with digital organisms in environment with multiple limited resources, I show that these conditions alone can be sufficient to induce differentiation in a population. Moreover, the observed pattern of species number distributions match patterns observed in nature. I develop a simple metric for phenotypic distance for digital organisms, which permits quantitative analysis of similarities within, and differences between species. This enables a clear species concept for digital organisms that may also be applied to biological organisms, thus helping to clarify the biological species concept. Finally, I will use this measurement methodology to predict species and ecosystem stability.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:diversity; ecosystem stability; evolution; resources; speciation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Computation and Neural Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Adami, Christoph Carl
Thesis Committee:
  • Wold, Barbara J. (chair)
  • Adami, Christoph Carl
  • Wilke, Claus O.
  • Cross, Michael Clifford
  • Quartz, Steven R.
Defense Date:18 May 2005
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-06062005-171257
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2478
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:07 Jun 2005
Last Modified:19 Aug 2020 22:42

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