Evolution of digital organisms at high mutation rates leads to survival of the flattest

Claus O. Wilke, Jia Lan Wang, Charles Ofria, Richard E. Lenski, Christoph Adami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Darwinian evolution favours genotypes with high replication rates, a process called 'survival of the fittest'. However, knowing the replication rate of each individual genotype may not suffice to predict the eventual survivor, even in an asexual population. According to quasi-species theory, selection favours the cloud of genotypes, interconnected by mutation, whose average replication rate is highest. Here we confirm this prediction using digital organisms that self-replicate, mutate and evolve. Forty pairs of populations were derived from 40 different ancestors in identical selective environments, except that one of each pair experienced a 4-fold higher mutation rate. In 12 cases, the dominant genotype that evolved at the lower mutation rate achieved a replication rate > 1.5-fold faster than its counterpart. We allowed each of these disparate pairs to compete across a range of mutation rates. In each case, as mutation rate was increased, the outcome of competition switched to favour the genotype with the lower replication rate. These genotypes, although they occupied lower fitness peaks, were located in flatter regions of the fitness surface and were therefore more robust with respect to mutations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-333
Number of pages3
Issue number6844
StatePublished - Jul 19 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution of digital organisms at high mutation rates leads to survival of the flattest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this