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Modelling persistence over generations in biological and cultural evolution based on differential paces of change

  • Thierry, Bernard
  • Deneubourg, Jean-Louis
  • Poulin, Nicolas
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2020.104189
PMID: 32599013
OAI: oai:HAL:hal-03017704v1
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Paces of change are faster in cultural evolution than in biological evolution due to different levels of stability in information storage. This study develops mathematical models to investigate the consequences of differential mutation rates on the ability of groups of information units to survive over many generations. We examined the ability of groups composed of connected units to live on despite the occurrence of deleterious mutations that occur at probabilities ranging from 10-1 to 10-6. It appears that the degree of connection between units should be high enough for groups to persist across generations, but this alone did not ensure their survival; when groups of units were limited in size and subjected to high mutation rates, they did not survive for very long. By contrast, a significant proportion of groups were able to survive numerous generations if mutation rates were low and/or group size was large. The results revealed that the mean number of surviving generations was minimized for certain sizes of groups. When allowing information units to duplicate at each generation, simulation showed that a great number of groups avoided extinction even when mutating at the rate of cultural change if the initial group size was large and the duplication rate was high enough to counteract the consequences of environmental perturbations. The modelling described in this study sets out the conditions under which groups of units can survive along generations. It should serve as a basis for further investigations about the links between processes of biological and cultural changes.

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