Sex with no regrets: How sexual reproduction uses a no regret learning algorithm for evolutionary advantage

Omer Idan, Ziv Hellman, Dana Sherill-Rofe

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Abstract

The question of ‘why sex’ has long been a puzzle. The randomness of recombination, which potentially produces low fitness progeny, contradicts notions of fitness landscape hill climbing. We use the concept of evolution as an algorithm for learning unpredictable environments to provide a possible answer. While sex and asex both implement similar machine learning no-regret algorithms in the context of random samples that are small relative to a vast genotype space, the algorithm of sex constitutes a more efficient goal-directed walk through this space. Simulations indicate this gives sex an evolutionary advantage, even in stable, unchanging environments. Asexual populations rapidly reach a fitness plateau, but the learning aspect of the no-regret algorithm most often eventually boosts the fitness of sexual populations past the maximal viability of corresponding asexual populations. In this light, the randomness of sexual recombination is not a hindrance but a crucial component of the ‘sampling for learning’ algorithm of sexual reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-81
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Volume426
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017

Keywords

  • Evolution
  • Sexual reproduction
  • Learning algorithms

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