The problem of identifying conditions that enable major evolutionary transitions, in which distinct units come together to form a new higher level unit, is a complex and difficult topic spanning many disciplines. Here, we approach this problem from the perspective of the origin of life, which allows us to make the simplifying assumption that the lower-level units are not also evolving. This assumption lets us focus on identifying environmental factors that promote egalitarian major transitions in general and the origin of life specifically. To study this question, we build a simple artificial ecology model. We quantify major-transition-like dynamics using a maximum likelihood approach and a set of null models predicting the behavior of our system under various dynamics. Ultimately, we find that, even in a maximally simple artificial ecology model, we are able to observe evidence of community-level selection and thus the beginnings of a major evolutionary transition. The regions of parameter space that promote community-level selection vary based on species interactions but we observe consistent trends.

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