Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Look who's evolving now: Using robots to study evolution

Date:
April 14, 2014
Source:
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology - OIST
Summary:
Scientists have demonstrated the usefulness of robots in studying evolution. They successfully used a colony of rodent-like robots to watch different mating strategies evolve. The work not only generated interesting and unexpected results, but it has also helped validate the use of robots in the study of evolution.

Dr. Stefan Elfwing with a Cyber Rodent robot.
Credit: Kathleen Estes, OIST

A new paper by OIST's Neural Computation Unit has demonstrated the usefulness of robots in studying evolution. Published in PLOS ONE, Stefan Elfwing, a researcher in Professor Kenji Doya's Unit, has successfully used a colony of rodent-like robots to watch different mating strategies evolve. The work not only generated interesting and unexpected results, but it has also helped validate the use of robots in the study of evolution.

Males and females of different species have different strategies of attracting and selecting mating partners. Evolutionary theory suggests that only one distinct phenotype, in this case referring to mating strategy, should exist within a population. This is because natural selection dictates only the best strategy will survive. However, in nature, we see polymorphic mating strategies, meaning there are multiple ways of mating within one population. How these different mating strategies evolved is debated among evolutionary biologists.

Studying the evolution of such behaviors in living populations of complex animals is exceedingly difficult. By using robots and computer simulation, Dr. Elfwing is able to watch evolution happen over 1,000 generations in a short period of time, something that is impossible to do in live animals. This is why some scientists have turned to robots to study evolution and see if they can understand how different behavioral strategies develop within a population.

Dr. Elfwing programmed a small colony of Cyber Rodent robots, which have two wheels, a camera to detect batteries and other robots, electrode teeth to recharge from batteries, and an infrared port for 'mating,' which is to copy their 'genes,'or the essential parameters of the program. The robots could execute two basic behaviors: foraging for a battery and searching for a partner to mate. The experiments were run in computer simulation to observe the evolutionary process over 1,000 generations in each experiment. In the situation when both a battery and the tail of another robot are visible, two main phenotypes in mating strategies emerged: first, a Forager that only went for the battery and would never wait for the partner to turn around for mating. It would only mate when it saw the face of a potential mate. Second, a Tracker that would wait for the mating partner to turn around for mating. The interesting result to come out of some of the 70 experiments was a polymorphic population where these two different mating strategies, or phenotypes, co-existed within one population. By running experiments with different ratios of the phenotypes, he further showed that there was a stable mixture ratio of 25% Foragers and 75% Trackers.

The evolution of two distinct mating strategies is similar to what is seen in the wild. In some experiments, only one strategy would evolve in the population. However, in the experiments where polymorphic populations evolved, the robots had some of the highest fitness, or fastest reproduction, out of all of the experiments. This indicates that the presence of these different mating strategies in certain proportions provided the best chance for proliferation.

Dr. Elfwing is excited about what the results mean for the future. "In this experiment, our robots were hermaphrodites, all robots mate and can produce offspring. In the next stage, we want to see if the robots will take on male and female roles, by taking different risks and costs in reproduction. The behavior exhibited by the two strategies, Forager and Tracker, may be a precursor to the adoption of distinct genders." Understanding the complex processes of evolution, and having a better way to study them, may be closer than ever, thanks in part to Dr. Elfwing and the Doya Unit's interest in robots.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology - OIST. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stefan Elfwing, Kenji Doya. Emergence of Polymorphic Mating Strategies in Robot Colonies. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (4): e93622 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093622

Cite This Page:

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology - OIST. "Look who's evolving now: Using robots to study evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414091909.htm>.
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology - OIST. (2014, April 14). Look who's evolving now: Using robots to study evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414091909.htm
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology - OIST. "Look who's evolving now: Using robots to study evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414091909.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins