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Transport networks are ubiquitous in both social and biological systems. Robust network performance involves a complex trade-off involving cost, transport efficiency, and fault tolerance. Biological networks have been honed by many cycles of evolutionary selection pressure and are likely to yield reasonable solutions to such combinatorial optimization problems. Furthermore, they develop without centralized control and may represent a readily scalable solution for growing networks in general. We show that the slime mold Physarum polycephalum forms networks with comparable efficiency, fault tolerance, and cost to those of real-world infrastructure networks--in this case, the Tokyo rail system. The core mechanisms needed for adaptive network formation can be captured in a biologically inspired mathematical model that may be useful to guide network construction in other domains.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/science.1177894

Type

Journal article

Journal

Science

Publication Date

22/01/2010

Volume

327

Pages

439 - 442

Keywords

Algorithms, Computer Simulation, Food, Models, Biological, Physarum polycephalum, Railroads, Systems Biology, Tokyo