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The biology of digital organisms

Claus Wilke, Christoph Adami
Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Vol.17, No.11, pp. 528-532
ISSN 0169-5347
November 2002

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Digital organisms are self-replicating computer programs that mutate and evolve. They can be thought of as a domesticated form of computer virus that lives in, and adapts to,a controlled environment.Digital organisms provide a unique opportunity with which to study evolutionary biology in a form of life that shares no ancestry with carbon-based life forms,and hence to distinguish general principles of evolution from historical accidents that are particular to biochemical life.In terms of the complexity of their evolutionary dynamics,digital organisms can be compared with biochemical viruses and bacteria.Recent studies of digital organisms have addressed long-term evolutionary adaptation and the growth of complexity in evolving systems,patterns of epistatic interactions in various genetic backgrounds,and quasi-species dynamics.

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