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Evolution Doesn’t Need Competition, After All

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Computer model trashes old assumptions

evolution, natural selection, biology, University of TexasIt’s been taken for granted since Darwin; species evolve through competition with each other for scarce resources. Then, the “more fit” adaptations can reproduce and propel the evolutionary process that much further.

It turns out, according to computer science researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of Central Florida, that these adaptions (and thus evolution) doesn’t need the competition. The study, published in PLoS ONE, points instead to increasing diversity as the seat of success in evolution. These results point to the need to look for different relationships between species (and members of the same species) when analyzing evolutionary dynamics.

Joel Lehman, the lead researcher at Texas, and his colleagues created a computer model that simulated evolutionary processes over time. Pictured below, the model plots species as they increase their ability to evolve as white dots, radiating toward the outer border of the circle. Using this model, the researchers found that species become more likely to evolve (and pass on their traits to offspring) even if they were not competing for food, mates or other resources.

overall evolution mapThe research helps answer another, related biological question: why has evolvability (the propensity and ability to evolve) increased over time? If competition were a factor, it should be helping to select which species are successful (and more able to evolve). Since competition isn’t necessarily factor in this change in evolution ability, then scientists need to look for other factors. One trait the computer model points to is increased diversity in some species (the model was based more on a hypothetical species instead of a particular animal or plant).

Source: Science Daily

Photos: MariaDoloresgago.blogia.com, PLoS ONE

Lehman, J., & Stanley, K. (2013). Evolvability Is Inevitable: Increasing Evolvability without the Pressure to Adapt PLoS ONE, 8 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062186

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