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Niche Construction and the Evolution of Complexity

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5 Author(s)

An individual-based model of the process of niche construction is presented, whereby organisms disturb the environment experienced by their neighbours. This disturbance in local conditions creates a niche that potentially could be filled by another species (which would then create still more niches and so on). The model is unique in allowing the complexity of the organisms—measured by the number of genes they possess in order to be well adapted to their local environment—to evolve over time, and is therefore the first model with which it is possible to study the contribution of niche construction to the evolution of organism complexity. Results of experiments demonstrate that the process of niche construction does indeed introduce an active drive for organisms with more genes. This is the first explicit example of a model which possesses an intrinsic drive for the evolution of complexity.