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Large Extinctions in an Evolutionary Model: The Role of Innovation and Keystone Species


  • Sanjay Jain
  • Sandeep Krishna


The causes of major and rapid transitions observed in biological macroevolution as well as in the evolution of social systems are a subject of much debate. Here we identify the proximate causes of crashes and recoveries that arise dynamically in a model system in which populations of (molecular) species co-evolve with their network of chemical interactions. Crashes are events that involve the rapid extinction of many species and recoveries the assimilation of new ones. These are analyzed and classified in terms of the structural properties of the network. We find that in the absence of large external perturbation, 'innovation' is a major cause of large extinctions and the prime cause of recoveries. Another major cause of crashes is the extinction of a 'keystone species.' Different classes of causes produce crashes of different characteristic size.

Suggested Citation

  • Sanjay Jain & Sandeep Krishna, 2001. "Large Extinctions in an Evolutionary Model: The Role of Innovation and Keystone Species," Working Papers 01-12-076, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-12-076

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Armen A. Alchian, 1950. "Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 211-211.
    2. Blume, L. E. & Bray, M. M. & Easley, D., 1982. "Introduction to the stability of rational expectations equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 313-317, April.
    3. Blume, Lawrence & Easley, David, 1992. "Evolution and market behavior," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 9-40, October.
    4. D. Blackwell & L. Dubins, 2010. "Merging of Opinions with Increasing Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 565, David K. Levine.
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    Evolution; autocatalytic sets; inovation; keystone species; extinction; recovery; network dynamics;

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