Project

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The joint evolution of dispersal and altruism

Applicant Keller Laurent
Number 141063
Funding scheme Interdisciplinary projects
Research institution Département d'Ecologie et d'Evolution Faculté de Biologie et de Médecine Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.10.2012 - 30.09.2016
Approved amount 650'000.00
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Keywords (4)

Co-Evolution; Robotics; Dispersal; Altruism

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Dispersal has two major antagonistic effects for the evolution of altruistic cooperation and social behavior. On the one hand, migration by individuals from their native patch decreases relatedness among locally interacting individuals, thus selecting against altruistic cooperation. On the other hand, dispersal decreases local competition for resources and reproduction among kin, which should favor altruistic cooperation. So far, only a few studies have investigated the consequences of these opposing effects when dispersal and cooperation can co-evolve. These studies were based either on social network or game-theoretic models that lacked explicit space and did not consider factors such as overlapping generations (which can lead to competition between parents and offspring) and the ability of individuals to disperse conditionally depending on, for example, the local population density. Population density itself can be influenced by the pattern of dispersal and the level of local cooperation, hence generating a further feedback-loop. The consequences of such feedbacks on the evolutionary dynamics of altruism and dispersal remain unknown.The aim of this project is to develop an individual-based model and an embodied robotic system which explicitly incorporate space, continuous movement of individuals, conditional dispersal and overlapping generations. We will implement a structured environment inhabited by 100 individuals that can freely move between nine patches each containing food sources. We will let foraging strategies, dispersal, and the level of altruism evolve over many generations of experimental evolution. Both dispersal and altruistic cooperation are not encoded by specific genetic traits, but rather emerge from the individuals? behavior that is itself determined by artificial neural networks whose parameters can change by mutation and selection. With this experimental design, dispersal and altruism can --but need not-- be genetically linked. With this system we will address questions about the evolutionary conditions necessary for the emergence, maintenance and disappearance of altruistic cooperation and dispersal in evolving populations. First, we will investigate how variation in the costs/benefits of cooperation, the costs of dispersal, and the level of competition affect the co-evolution of altruistic cooperation and dispersal. Second, we will study the role of condition-dependent dispersal strategies that can be influenced by resource availability and local population density. Third, we will investigate the influence of overlapping generations where parents compete with their offspring. Finally, we will conduct parts of these experiments using a robotic platform to investigate to what extent issues related to embodiment and physical interactions influence the results obtained in numerical and theoretical models. The use of a robotic system also has the advantage of making the studies accessible to a broader audience, including the media which can use videos that illustrate the key results of the scientific research.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Evolutionary stability of jointly evolving traits in subdivided populations
Mullon C. Keller L. & Lehmann L. (2016), Evolutionary stability of jointly evolving traits in subdivided populations, in american naturalist, 188, 175-195.

Awards

Title Year
Prix Marcel Benoist 2015

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
117914 Evolution of Altruistic Communication in Robot Societies 01.01.2008 Interdisciplinary projects
100476 Evolution of Cooperation and Division of Labour in artifical Ants 01.04.2003 Project funding (Div. I-III)
156732 Genetic basis of alternative social organizations in fire ants 01.01.2015 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Dispersal has two major antagonistic effects for the evolution of altruistic cooperation and social behavior. On the one hand, migration by individuals from their native patch decreases relatedness among locally interacting individuals, thus selecting against altruistic cooperation. On the other hand, dispersal decreases local competition for resources and reproduction among kin, which should favor altruistic cooperation. So far, only a few studies have investigated the consequences of these opposing effects when dispersal and cooperation can co-evolve. These studies were based either on social network or game-theoretic models that lacked explicit space and did not consider factors such as overlapping generations (which can lead to competition between parents and offspring) and the ability of individuals to disperse conditionally depending on, for example, the local population density. Population density itself can be influenced by the pattern of dispersal and the level of local cooperation, hence generating a further feedback-loop. The consequences of such feedbacks on the evolutionary dynamics of altruism and dispersal remain unknown.The aim of this project is to develop an individual-based model and an embodied robotic system which explicitly incorporate space, continuous movement of individuals, conditional dispersal and overlapping generations. We will implement a structured environment inhabited by 100 individuals that can freely move between nine patches each containing food sources. We will let foraging strategies, dispersal, and the level of altruism evolve over many generations of experimental evolution. Both dispersal and altruistic cooperation are not encoded by specific genetic traits, but rather emerge from the individuals? behavior that is itself determined by artificial neural networks whose parameters can change by mutation and selection. With this experimental design, dispersal and altruism can --but need not-- be genetically linked. With this system we will address questions about the evolutionary conditions necessary for the emergence, maintenance and disappearance of altruistic cooperation and dispersal in evolving populations. First, we will investigate how variation in the costs/benefits of cooperation, the costs of dispersal, and the level of competition affect the co-evolution of altruistic cooperation and dispersal. Second, we will study the role of condition-dependent dispersal strategies that can be influenced by resource availability and local population density. Third, we will investigate the influence of overlapping generations where parents compete with their offspring. Finally, we will conduct parts of these experiments using a robotic platform to investigate to what extent issues related to embodiment and physical interactions influence the results obtained in numerical and theoretical models. The use of a robotic system also has the advantage of making the studies accessible to a broader audience, including the media which can use videos that illustrate the key results of the scientific research.
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