The importance of noise colour in simulations of evolutionary systems

Matt Grove*, Lucy Timbrell, Ben Jolley, Fiona Polack, James M. Borg*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Simulations of evolutionary dynamics often employ white noise as a model of stochastic environmental variation. Whilst white noise has the advantages of being simply generated and analytically tractable, empirical analyses demonstrate that most real environmental time series have power spectral densities consistent with pink or red noise, in which lower frequencies contribute proportionally greater amplitudes than higher frequencies. Simulated white noise environments may therefore fail to capture key components of real environmental time series, leading to erroneous results. To explore the effects of different noise colours on evolving populations, a simple evolutionary model of the interaction between life-history and the specialism-generalism axis was developed. Simulations were conducted using a range of noise colours as the environments to which agents adapted. Results demonstrate complex interactions between noise colour, reproductive rate, and the degree of evolved generalism; importantly, contradictory conclusions arise from simulations using white as opposed to red noise, suggesting that noise colour plays a fundamental role in generating adaptive responses. These results are discussed in the context of previous research on evolutionary responses to fluctuating environments, and it is suggested that Artificial Life as a field should embrace a wider spectrum of coloured noise models to ensure that results are truly representative of environmental and evolutionary dynamics.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)164-182
    Number of pages19
    JournalArtificial Life
    Early online date11 Feb 2022
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright © 2022 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This corrected proof version of an article published in Artificial LIfe at
    [] is made available in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.


    • Coloured noise
    • Evolutionary dynamics
    • Evolved generalism
    • Fluctuating environments
    • Life-history evolution
    • Variable environments


    Dive into the research topics of 'The importance of noise colour in simulations of evolutionary systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this