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Evolutionary computation in zoology and ecology.

Abstract

Evolutionary computational methods have adopted attributes of natural selection and evolution to solve problems in computer science, engineering, and other fields. The method is growing in use in zoology and ecology. Evolutionary principles may be merged with an agent-based modeling perspective to have individual animals or other agents compete. Four main categories are discussed: genetic algorithms, evolutionary programming, genetic programming, and evolutionary strategies. In evolutionary computation, a population is represented in a way that allows for an objective function to be assessed that is relevant to the problem of interest. The poorest performing members are removed from the population, and remaining members reproduce and may be mutated. The fitness of the members is again assessed, and the cycle continues until a stopping condition is met. Case studies include optimizing: egg shape given different clutch sizes, mate selection, migration of wildebeest, birds, and elk, vulture foraging behavior, algal bloom prediction, and species richness given energy constraints. Other case studies simulate the evolution of species and a means to project shifts in species ranges in response to a changing climate that includes competition and phenotypic plasticity. This introduction concludes by citing other uses of evolutionary computation and a review of the flexibility of the methods. For example, representing species' niche spaces subject to selective pressure allows studies on cladistics, the taxon cycle, neutral versus niche paradigms, fundamental versus realized niches, community structure and order of colonization, invasiveness, and responses to a changing climate.

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