We were all taught that evolution favours groups that live long, and only the fittest survives. If you are strong and use up resources better than your competition, you are going to survive. But a new study shows otherwise. The study, titled “Programmed death is favored by natural selection in spatial systems”¹, shows results of computer simulations that based on mathematical formulations and a new model, that evolution instead of favouring individuals with longer lifespans favours those who live comparably less.
The paper was published in Physical Review Letters, and has an efficient team of scientists behind it which includes Yaneer Bar-Yam, the head of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), Donald E. Ingber, the founding director of the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and Justin Werfel, a researcher affiliated with both. The bound to be controversial idea of favouring of shorter lifespans was raised first 1870, was then rejected based on theoretical arguments. The team argued that the present explanation of evolution uses the idea of ‘mean-feild analysis’(in which instead of taking the exact conditions, an average of all the possible conditions, like resource availability and danger is used), which is not realistic, when applied on actual systems of life, because every group has a different amount of resources, different kinds of dangers, and different ways to approach them, and called this the ‘spatial system analysis’. In the real world these differences from the average does matter.
The study shows that death isn’t the final fate of an organism, but a measure taken by evolution based on the availability of resources, and pressure to reproduce. In simple words, evolution considers a group’s efficiency in using the resources around it and saving some for its offsprings. It does not allow a single group to use up all the resources available and leave nothing for the future generations, and so, the evolution has given a shorter lifespan than what could have been otherwise possible. The study used simulations based on a new mathematical model, and tested three categories, competition, ascendance and invasion, their effects on societies and their lifespans.
This is what the paper quotes on these three categories:
“Competition” directly tests the dynamics of two competing strains. We introduce one consumer of the first type into a population of the second, and track the number of each over time. Longer-lived strains can have a temporary advantage that may last for hundreds of generations, but eventually be out-competed by shorter-lived types . The mean- field approximation fails because local resource availability quickly becomes characteristic of the local strain rather than of the population as a whole; longer-lived types have resource-impoverished environments.
“Ascendance” studies explore the evolution of lifespan in a consumer population undergoing mutation.
“Invasion” studies explore the question of evolutionary origin and stability of the trait of intrinsic mortality: If a rare mutation could confer or remove the capacity for lifespan control, would that mutant have an advantage or a disadvantage in its later spread through the population?
The studies clearly show through graphs, that the present explanation is invalid and the new model properly predicts that in the long run, shorter lifespan guarantees longer time on earth. So if you want humans to live long on earth, use fewer resources and life short individual lives.
This study can bring new advancements in medicine. Since, it is shown that lifespan isn’t inherent but is genetic, a deeper understanding can help targeting the proper genes, and thus increase lifespan. So, let’s wait for the peer review of these papers and see whats more in store for us. Happy Reading!
-The Cosmogasmic Person