• cellular automata;
  • self-replication;
  • genetic evolution;
  • diversity;
  • adaptation


It is widely believed that evolutionary dynamics of artificial self-replicators realized in cellular automata (CA) are limited in diversity and adaptation. Contrary to this view, we show that complex genetic evolution may occur within simple CA. The evolving self-replicating loops (“evoloops”) we investigate exhibit significant diversity in macro-scale morphologies and mutational biases, undergoing nontrivial genetic adaptation by maximizing colony density and enhancing sustainability against other species. Nonmutable subsequences enable genetic operations that alter fitness differentials and promote long-term evolutionary exploration. These results demonstrate a unique example of genetic evolution hierarchically emerging from local interactions between elements much smaller than individual replicators. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity 10: 33–39, 2004