In the research described here we extend past computational investigations of animal signaling by studying an artificial world in which a population of initially noncommunicating agents evolves to communicate about food sources and predators. Signaling in this world can be either beneficial (e.g., warning of nearby predators) or costly (e.g., attracting predators or competing agents). Our goals were twofold: to examine systematically environmental conditions under which grounded signaling does or does not evolve, and to determine how variations in assumptions made about the evolutionary process influence the outcome. Among other things, we found that agents warning of nearby predators were a common occurrence whenever predators had a significant impact on survival and signaling could interfere with predator success. The setting most likely to lead to food signaling was found to be difficult-to-locate food sources that each have relatively large amounts of food. Deviations from the selection methods typically used in traditional genetic algorithms were also found to have a substantial impact on whether communication evolved. For example, constraining parent selection and child placement to physically neighboring areas facilitated evolution of signaling in general, whereas basing parent selection upon survival alone rather than survival plus fitness measured as success in food acquisition was more conducive to the emergence of predator alarm signals. We examine the mechanisms underlying these and other results, relate them to existing experimental data about animal signaling, and discuss their implications for artificial life research involving evolution of communication.

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