Friday, May 09, 2003

Artificial Life Confirms Darwinian Hypotheses

I reported on this years ago on this site when Danny Hillis at Connection Machines demostrated how punctuated equilibrium worked. It nice to see other scientists catching up.

Darwin Proved Right by Experiment with 'Alien' Life
By Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer, 07 May 2003

The evolutionary path from simple microbe to complex forms, on Earth or anywhere in the universe, is long, gradual and very Darwinian, according to a new experiment conducted with an "alien form of life" in a virtual petri dish.

Researchers prodded and annoyed life-like digital entities over more than 15,000 generations to learn that evolution among simple creatures is in fact based on the Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest and that the progress is plodding.

Still frames from an animation depict a competition for resources between two strains of digital organism. Species A (green) replicates twice as fast as Species B (blue), but Species B is more robust.

"The little things, they definitely count," says Richard Lenski, a Michigan State University evolutionary biologist who worked with a team of scientists from diverse backgrounds in creating and fostering artificial life inside a computer.