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Panmictic and Clonal Evolution on a Single Patchy Resource Produces Polymorphic Foraging Guilds


We develop a stochastic, agent-based model to study how genetic traits and experiential changes in the state of agents and available resources influence individuals' foraging and movement behaviors. These behaviors are manifest as decisions on when to stay and exploit a current resource patch or move to a particular neighboring patch, based on information of the resource qualities of the patches and the anticipated level of intraspecific competition within patches. We use a genetic algorithm approach and an individual's biomass as a fitness surrogate to explore the foraging strategy diversity of evolving guilds under clonal versus hermaphroditic sexual reproduction. We first present the resource exploitation processes, movement on cellular arrays, and genetic algorithm components of the model. We then discuss their implementation on the Nova software platform. This platform seamlessly combines the dynamical systems modeling of consumer-resource interactions with agent-based modeling of individuals moving over a landscapes, using an architecture that lays transparent the following four hierarchical simulation levels: 1.) within-patch consumer-resource dynamics, 2.) within-generation movement and competition mitigation processes, 3.) across-generation evolutionary processes, and 4.) multiple runs to generate the statistics needed for comparative analyses. The focus of our analysis is on the question of how the biomass production efficiency and the diversity of guilds of foraging strategy types, exploiting resources over a patchy landscape, evolve under clonal versus random hermaphroditic sexual reproduction. Our results indicate greater biomass production efficiency under clonal reproduction only at higher population densities, and demonstrate that polymorphisms evolve and are maintained under random mating systems. The latter result questions the notion that some type of associative mating structure is needed to maintain genetic polymorphisms among individuals exploiting a common patchy resource on an otherwise spatially homogeneous landscape.

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