EPSRC Network on Evolvability in Biology & Software Systems

Evolvability, Genetics & Development in Natural and Constructed Systems: Abstracts of the EPSRC Evolvability Network Symposium

Tewin Bury Farm Hotel, Hertfordshire, England, UK
26-28 August 2003

University of Hertfordshire Computer Science Technical Report 389
C. L. Nehaniv, P. J. Bentley & S. Kumar (Editors)

Evolving Complex Forms which Self-Assemble into a Self-Replicating Functional Form (POSTER)

Evolving Complex Forms which Self-Assemble into a Self-Replicating Functional Form


Department of Computer Science
University College London
Gower Street


Diatoms (single celled protist related to algae) possess a beautifully patterned and shaped cell wall made of silica (similar to glass). Some species grow together as they divide by mitosis, in interlocking forms, such as dovetail joints and intertwined spines, forming colony chains. Once a critical chain length is reached, the new cells take on a different shape, which doesn't interlock. Divisions of these seperated diatoms then take on the interlocking form again. This allows the chains to remain at the ideal length, and `self-replicate' new colony chains. Modelling this ingenious mechanism firstly helps understand how biology manipulates inorganic material to increase organism and colony survival and secondly allows us to utilize the findings to produce artificial self-replicating chains, which also, by the nature of the mechanisms involved, self-assemble. This is a work in progress where the overall aim of the work is to use a diatom inspired mechanism to generate and evolve the complex shapes of primitives which self-assemble into a self-replicating functional form which can be instantiated physically with rapid prototyping.