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Aging Saves Populations from Extinction under Lack of Resources: in silico Experiments

V. A. Chistyakov* and Yu. V. Denisenko

Academy of Biology and Biotechnology, Research Institute of Biology, Southern Federal University, 344090 Rostov-on-Don, Russia; E-mail: vladimirchi@sfedu.ru

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received December 22, 2014; Revision received January 16, 2015
By admitting the programmed organism death (phenoptosis) concept, it inevitably raises a question as to what advantages it gives to communities containing elderly and naturally weakened individuals. We believe that the broadest prevalence of the aging phenomenon is accounted for, particularly, by the fact that in certain situations occurrence of elderly individuals may guarantee not only evolution, but also the mere existence of populations. The goal of our study was to create a mathematical model illustrating the occurrence of situations when existence of elderly individuals accounts for population survival, whereas an ageless population would be completely extinguished. A logic basis for such model is as follows: 1) natural populations exist under conditions of uneven renewal of resources; 2) if resources are renewed at a high level and rapidly compensated by their restoration, then a population strives to achieve a maximum size, which is limited not by resource availability, but specific biological mechanisms; 3) rate of resource influx may decline down to zero very rapidly (e.g. during drought); 4) a capacity, at least, for some individuals to survive during resource shortage is crucial for survival of the entire population; 5) rapid extinction of the weaker elderly individuals saves resources for survival of the younger and stronger ones. A multi-agent simulation is used as a mathematical basis for the proposed model (http://www.winmobile.biz). In silico experiments confirmed the lack of fatal contradictions in our logical construction. The presence of the aged individuals once the aging program has been turned at the age of 25-30 years results in a 24-26% increase in lifetime of the population.
KEY WORDS: aging, phenoptosis, multi-agent simulation, extinction, resource shortage

DOI: 10.1134/S000629791505017X