Simulating macroevolution

Most of what I understand about evolution comes from looking at it as a software developer – in particular, from getting my head round evolutionary algorithms. However, most of the uses of evolutionary algorithms that I’ve seen so far could be categorised as “microevolution” – they tend to be specialised and focused on a particular task (e.g. playing chess, solving the travelling salesman problem, image recognition, optimising a car for driving across rough terrain, reducing cloud computing hosting costs, etc.) But I wondered if there had been any research done on computer simulations of macroevolution (speciation, increasing biodiversity, etc.)

Turns out that there have. I’ve just done a Google search for “simulating macroevolution” and come across this:

From the abstract to the peer reviewed paper in which it is described:

Macroevolutionary processes dictate the generation and loss of biodiversity. Understanding them is a key challenge when interrogating the earth–life system in deep time. Model-based approaches can reveal important macroevolutionary patterns and generate hypotheses on the underlying processes. Here we present and document a novel model called REvoSim (Rapid Evolutionary Simulator) coupled with a software implementation of this model. The latter is available here as both source code (C++/Qt, GNU General Public License) and as distributables for a variety of operating systems. REvoSim is an individual-based model with a strong focus on computational efficiency. It can simulate populations of 105–107 digital organisms over geological timescales on a typical desktop computer, and incorporates spatial and temporal environmental variation, recombinant reproduction, mutation and dispersal. Whilst microevolutionary processes drive the model, macroevolutionary phenomena such as speciation and extinction emerge. We present results and analysis of the model focusing on validation, and note a number potential applications. REvoSim can serve as a multipurpose platform for studying both macro and microevolution, and bridges this divide. It will be continually developed by the authors to expand its capabilities and hence its utility.

Has anyone else seen this? Or any other similar studies of macroevolution simulation in computer software?

I can’t remember for certain but I believe on the “ Common Descent Podcast” on one of their episodes they mentioned software that was focused on speciation and they mentioned software that worked on identifying it. They mentioned something about it guessing several potential most likely morphological changes from basal species and that often one of the many guesses were very similar to what ended up happening and that was supporting evidence for it working on accurately looking at things now and seeing what could happen. Unfortunately I listened to it a while back , maybe even years, and I’ll have to try to find it. But maybe it’s something to help with your search.

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