Journal article

Environmental Influence on the Evolution of Morphological Complexity in Machines

Whether, when, how, and why increased complexity evolves in biological populations is a longstanding open question. In this work we combine a recently developed method for evolving virtual organisms with an information-theoretic metric of morphological complexity in order to investigate how the complexity of morphologies, which are evolved for locomotion, varies across different environments. We first demonstrate that selection for locomotion results in the evolution of organisms with morphologies that increase in complexity over evolutionary time beyond what would be expected due to random chance. This provides evidence that the increase in complexity observed is a result of a driven rather than a passive trend. In subsequent experiments we demonstrate that morphologies having greater complexity evolve in complex environments, when compared to a simple environment when a cost of complexity is imposed. This suggests that in some niches, evolution may act to complexify the body plans of organisms while in other niches selection favors simpler body plans.

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EPFL authors