Building models : developing the behavioural model of Temnothorax collective wall building to study the evolutionary robustness of self-organised algorithms
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This thesis focuses on wall building behaviour in Temnothorax ants as a case study of self-organised collective behaviour. It contains a progressing series of research packages, building towards one evolutionary question: how eusocial insect nest building algorithms successfully make the transition between two rule variants. I start by revising the existent behavioural model of Temnothorax wall building. By replicating the original agent-based model, I identify two issues: 1. the behavioural model performs poorly in conditions of low building material availability; and 2. the behavioural model lacks behavioural termination. I then introduce a revised version of the behavioural model (the gradual model) in which high stone density at building sites triggers a decrease in building activity, eventually leading to behavioural termination. I then compare the fit of both models to empirical data using laboratory observations of T. rugatulus wall building, applying a hidden Markov model framework to interpret the data. The gradual model provides the best match to the observed data. Finally, I use the revised model to test, in an agent-based model setting, how wall quality responds to different types of inter-worker variation in the building rule used: the presence of a mutant variant spreading within the colony; the co-existence of multiple variants; and widespread epigenetic individual variation. I find wall quality to be very robust to nearly any degree and frequency of variants. With additional simulations, I identify the two key elements of the building algorithm that provide robustness: the positive feedback effect, co-localising worker effort despite starting individual variation; and the existence of an area of overlap where activity occurs with high frequency under all variants (a buffer zone). I predict that these two components have been under selection for evolvability in wall building Temnothorax ants.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Description of related resourcesBuilding models: Developing the behavioural model of Temnothorax collective wall building to study the evolutionary robustness of self-organised algorithms (dataset) Invernizzi, E., University of St Andrews, GitHub, 2022. DOI: https://github.com/invernie/PhD-thesis
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