The dynamics of specialization and generalization within biological populations

Andrew J. Spencert, Lain D. Couzin, Nigel R. Franks

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


We develop an abstract model to ezplore speciali;;ation and generalization in task performance by individuals within biological populations. Individuals follow simple roles of increasing and decreasing task propensities that could, for ezample, be based on learning and forgetting. The model does not ezplore efficiency per se, but makes the prediction that where behavioural specialization occurs in nature, organisms are likeJy to be reaping sufficient benefits from improved handling efficiency to offset the costs of increased search time. A second prediction is that among specialists, there will be a trade-off between stability and responsiveness. The model reveals potential similarities between a wide range of complez biological systems. KEYWORDS: Specialists, generalists, simulation model, predation, pollination, switching, task allocation, search image, ants, bumblebees, social insects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgents, Networks, Evolution
Subtitle of host publicationA Quarter Century Of Advances In Complex Systems
EditorsF. Schweitzer
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789811267826
ISBN (Print)9789811267819
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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