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The Importance of Noise Colour in Simulations of Evolutionary Systems

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Simulations of evolutionary dynamics often employ white noise as a model of stochastic environmental variation. Whilst white noise has the advantages of being simply generated and analytically tractable, empirical analyses demonstrate that most real environmental time series have power spectral densities consistent with pink or red noise, in which lower frequencies contribute proportionally greater amplitudes than higher frequencies. Simulated white noise environments may therefore fail to capture key components of real environmental time series, leading to erroneous results. To explore the effects of different noise colours on evolving populations, a simple evolutionary model of the interaction between life-history and the specialism-generalism axis was developed. Simulations were conducted using a range of noise colours as the environments to which agents adapted. Results demonstrate complex interactions between noise colour, reproductive rate, and the degree of evolved generalism; importantly, contradictory conclusions arise from simulations using white as opposed to red noise, suggesting that noise colour plays a fundamental role in generating adaptive responses. These results are discussed in the context of previous research on evolutionary responses to fluctuating environments, and it is suggested that Artificial Life as a field should embrace a wider spectrum of coloured noise models to ensure that results are truly representative of environmental and evolutionary dynamics.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 11, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 16, 2022
Publication Date Feb 11, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Journal Artificial Life
Print ISSN 1064-5462
Publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press
Volume 27
Issue 3–4
Pages 164-182
Keywords Coloured noise, evolutionary dynamics, life-history evolution, variable environments, fluctuating environments, evolved generalism
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