BEAGLE: Simulated Evolution
Simulated Evolution is the umbrella
name for a set of projects focused on using agent-based modeling to
explore and learn about evolutionary processes. The central idea of
the Simulated Evolution project is to emphasize and manifest that
evolution is more than a history of humans, fossils, life, but
evolution is a fundamental process – a process by which populations
of individuals can change over time through variation and selection.
This process applies not only to living things but also to
behaviors, strategies, ideas, organizations, even to music and art.
Simulated Evolution projects address the needs of multiple
constituencies: Simulated Evolution materials and models are in use
in learning communities in both formal and informal settings; but
they are also used in research laboratories to elaborate evolutionary
theory, and in the media to illustrate and explicate evolutionary
processes to the general public.
The Simulated Evolution
project’s BEAGLE software (Biological Experiments
in Adaptation, Genetics, Learning and Evolution)
is specifically designed for learning evolution in both school and
non-school settings. BEAGLE consists of a suite of NetLogo
models and supporting materials designed to facilitate inquiry,
teaching and learning of concepts and phenomena related to evolution,
adaptation, and natural and artificial selection. Dozens of models
have been developed to explore concepts in evolution and many more
are currently under development. Since 1997, BEAGLE
models have been used, tested and modified by learners across a wide
range of ages in both formal and informal settings. The Simulated
Evolution project was formerly called evolab and includes EACH
models (Evolution of Cooperative and Altruistic Habits) and other
NetLogo models not in BEAGLE.
BEAGLE models let
participants open simulations and "play" with them,
exploring their behavior under various conditions. The user interface
is intuitive enabling students and teachers to easily run simulations
and conduct experiments in the virtual evolution laboratory.
Center for Connected Learning (CCL) has been guided in the
development of BEAGLE models by multiple sources including popular
science materials, traditional genetics topics, benchmarks for
science literacy, reform-based science curriculum units, and current
state of the art evolutionary research. Once a new BEAGLE
model idea has been identified, we then design and construct a
NetLogo model that is vibrant, compelling, and accessible for the
young adolescent, but also consistent with the scientific conceptions
of a professional evolutionary biologist. Each model includes
conceptual scaffolding for a user to begin to interact with it
intuitively, explore and run experiments, and also use tools to
analyze and dissect model assumptions.
BEAGLE models provide a special opportunity to support the
transfer of knowledge between different disciplines and communities,
by providing the same low entry level platform for exploring,
analyzing, and building models of both simple and complex
You can now
play against other players in an online natural selection competition using a BEAGLE model.
A selection of the BEAGLE Models that are in the NetLogo
Model Library are linked below.
Population Dynamics and Ecosystems
Birth Rates – Explore simple population dynamics.
Sheep Predation – Explore predator/prey population dynamics in
a simple ecosystem.
– Originally conceived by John Holland, this abstract model of the
evolution of ecosystems is both powerful and educational.
Biomorphs - Inspired by Dawkin's biomorphs, this model allows
the user to interactively evolve a population of dynamic sunflowers.
Breeder – Develop a line of fancy birds by performing
selective breeding through a careful selection of mates over
– Discover ho>w
camouflaging emerges in
a bug population hunted by a predator. (also available as a HubNet
Hunt Speeds - Explore how different predation strategies exert
different selective pressures on a population of moving bugs.
Spots – Explore how sexual attraction and predation exert
selective pressure on the coloration and fin patterns in a
population of guppies.
Moths – This model is based on the famous example of the
change of the coloration of moths in response to pollution.
Coevolution and Mimicry
– Examines how a harmless species will take on the physical
characteristics of a poisonous species in order to escape predation
without incurring significant costs.
Hunt Coevolution – Investigate how interactions between a
predator and prey population results in multiple selective pressures
that lead to a outcome of interdependent evolution in each
Queen – Coevolutionary arms races tend to have only one
outcome that each species has to evolve as fast as possible just to
maintain their current population. This model examines this
phenomenon in the context of toxicology and immunity.
Economic and Behavioral Evolution
Evolution of Cooperative and Altruistic Habits (EACH) (3
the Cake ) - This group of models explores concepts like
“success” and “fitness” as emergent phenomenon and how they
affect the behavior of individuals in a population.
– A model of social evolution that explores why ethnocentric
behavior (in-group cooperation and out-of-group antagonism) exists.
Farol – An example of how evolving economic strategies can
result in a stable equilibrium.
Game Exploration of the co-evolution of strategies within an
ecology of strategies
Degrees of Freedom – This model investigates how the amount
of freedom that an agent has to solve problems affects the fitness
of that agent, and thus the evolution of that agent over time.
Patterns of Inheritance
Hybridization– Explores the patterns of inheritance in
Mendelian genetics with cross-fertilization of plants over multiple
Mendel’s Corn Gardener – Explores how Mendelian genetics
can be utilized to grow corn with a higher yield.
Body Segments Evolving – This model allows the individual
to explore how artificial selection and mutation can work together
to create complex body structures.
Kin Selection – Investigates how the ability to identify
and protect kin affects the process of evolution.
Hardy Weinberg – Investigates how the distribution of
dominant and recessive genes changes over time.
Sickle Cell – Places investigations into dominant and
recessive traits within the framework of sickle cell anemia.
The project leader is Uri Wilensky.
development team members are: