Environmental connectivity influences the origination of adaptive processes

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Spatial structure is hypothesized to be an important factor in the origin of life, wherein encapsulated chemical reaction networks came together to form systems capable adaptive complexification via Darwinian evolution. In this work, we use a computational model to investigate how different patterns of environmental connectivity influence the emergence of adaptive processes in simulated systems of self-amplifying networks of interacting chemical reactions (autocatalytic cycles, ``ACs''). Specifically, we measured the propensity for adaptive dynamics to emerge in communities with nine distinct patterns of inter-AC interactions, across ten different patterns of environmental connectivity. We found that the pattern of connectivity can dramatically influence the emergence of adaptive processes; however, the effect of any particular spatial pattern varied across systems of ACs. Relative to a well-mixed (fully connected) environment, each spatial structure that we investigated amplified adaptive processes for at least one system of ACs and suppressed adaptive processes for at least one other system. Our findings suggest that there may be no single environment that universally promotes the emergence of adaptive processes in a system of interacting components (e.g., ACs). Instead, the ideal environment for amplifying (or suppressing) adaptive dynamics will depend on the particularities of the system.

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