Evolve a Worm (directed evolution)

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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 10:34 pm

Evolve a Worm (directed evolution)

Post by mantis_lobster » Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:17 pm

Description / Introduction:
Trying to generate a worm through directed evolution seems harder than it looks. I bet many people already tried this. So I have a problem proposal. I'm more interested in new evolution ideas/techniques/strategies/approaches than anything so if you're going to try a solution feel free to modify the restrictions as you wish.

Suppose we have an appropriate substrate with a certain dynamic friction (say, 2.0) in an experimental plate.
To create one basic worm organism that thrives in this substrate, such as the 3-celled worm recommended by a hint in one of the friction challenges, some things are required (spoiler, highlight to read):

- at least 1 food producer/harvester (such as a phagocyte)
- 1 myocyte
- 1 neurocyte
- the neurocyte has to be an oscillator
- the myocyte has to respond to the neurocyte in some way

Of course we could easily design this by directly manipulating the genome, but we're interested in arriving at a similar organism through evolution.
The organism seems very complex for simple unguided evolution. It would pop-up eventually through sheer luck, but only after too much time. In order to shorten the time taken, we will guide its evolution by modifying the substrate and creating evolutionary pressures.

I have a feeling that there's an easy evolutionary path to arrive at a worm, but I can't figure it out.

Objective(very difficult(?)): Find a sequence of experimental plate setup steps that have a reasonable probability of giving rise to a 3-celled(or more) worm in a finite amount of time, starting from nothing and with minimal amounts of manual intervention.
You are allowed to divide the setup in multiple steps which may include any number of modifications to the substrate along the way (for example turning on contamination until X happens, allowing cell types Y only after Z happens, increasing friction only after W happens, changing the nutrient concentration, etc).
The solution consists of a rough description of the sequence of steps you took.

Substrate restrictions: None. Substract is modifiable, except that the dynamic friction of the last substrate needs to allow for worm wiggling movements (for example, a value of 2.0 dynamic friction).

Genome modification restrictions: Direct genome modifications are restricted to only one mode of a single starting cell. All other genome modifications have to be acquired through contamination or mutation/adaptation. You may save and load genomes but only the ones acquired through this process, and you can't modify them directly. These won't count towards the max inserted cells.

Max Cells inserted: 1

Cell Types allowed: Any. The types allowed or restricted can be changed at any given step.

Bonus goal: list any surprises you had or interesting organisms you found along the way.

Additional info:
- Highest cell necessary: myocyte
- You're allowed to upload intermediate steps and discuss strategies
- I have NOT completed this challenge (yet).
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