Entropy in the Tangled Nature Model of evolution

Ty N.F. Roach, James Nulton, Paolo Sibani, Forest Rohwer, Peter Salamon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Applications of entropy principles to evolution and ecology are of tantamount importance given the central role spatiotemporal structuring plays in both evolution and ecological succession. We obtain here a qualitative interpretation of the role of entropy in evolving ecological systems. Our interpretation is supported by mathematical arguments using simulation data generated by the Tangled Nature Model (TNM), a stochastic model of evolving ecologies. We define two types of configurational entropy and study their empirical time dependence obtained from the data. Both entropy measures increase logarithmically with time, while the entropy per individual decreases in time, in parallel with the growth of emergent structures visible from other aspects of the simulation. We discuss the biological relevance of these entropies to describe niche space and functional space of ecosystems, as well as their use in characterizing the number of taxonomic configurations compatible with different niche partitioning and functionality. The TNM serves as an illustrative example of how to calculate and interpret these entropies, which are, however, also relevant to real ecosystems, where they can be used to calculate the number of functional and taxonomic configurations that an ecosystem can realize.

Original languageEnglish
Article number192
Issue number5
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Configurational entropy
  • Ecology
  • Evolution


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