The Emergence and Dynamical Evolution of Complex Transport Networks from Simple Low-Level Behaviours
The true slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a recent well studied example of how complex transport networks emerge from simple autocatalytic and self-organising local interactions, adapting structure and function against changing environmental conditions and external perturbation. Physarum networks also exhibit computationally desirable measures of transport efficiency in terms of overall path length, minimal connectivity and network resilience. Although significant progress has been made in mathematically modelling the behaviour of Physarum networks (and other biological transport networks) based on observed features in experimental settings, their initial emergence – and in particular their longterm persistence and evolution – is still poorly understood. We present a low-level, bottom-up, approach to the modelling of emergent transport networks. A population of simple particle-like agents coupled with paracrine chemotaxis behaviours in a dissipative environment results in the spontaneous emergence of persistent, complex structures. Second order emergent behaviours, in the form of network surface minimisation, are also observed contributing to the long term evolution and dynamics of the networks. The framework is extended to allow data presentation and the population is used to perform a direct (spatial) approximation of network minimisation problems. Three methods are employed, loosely relating to behaviours of Physarum under different environmental conditions. Finally, the low-level approach is summarised with a view to further research.
Keywords: Dynamical networks, Physarum polycephalum, mass transport, chemotaxis, diffusion.