A year ago, I asked a couple questions about a world I was building where the all the ecosystems in a planet were designed from scratch by a galactic consortium of species (1, 2, 3). I'm revisiting that world, and trying to dig deeper to look at some of the issues the scientific group would have to deal with.

In particular, I'm interested in how the group could model evolution (though I'm not asking about that). To try to better figure out what methods they could use, I'd like to do some simulations of my own. I know that computational evolution is an active field, and I've seen a Stack Overflow question about simulations that have been done, and some packages available to people wanting to do things themselves. However, I'm more interested in planet-wide (or at least continent-size) simulations - because, after all, the alien experiment involves an entire planet.

What programs or resources are out there that can be used to simulate evolutionary processes across an Earth-like planet? I'm looking for things along the lines of SimEarth, although I don't know how good that particular one is - and it seems more like a game than a worldbuilding tool.

  • $\begingroup$ What you are asking is probably more like a game than anything since the models that have to deal with evolution have a hard enough time dealing with small microbioms and really can't touch on global evolution. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ What is the desired output of your simulation? It is almost like you are asking for a program to predict which forms of life will appear on a planet. It is definitely not possible to create such a program, since our sample set for evolved life is exactly one. I guess I don't understand what you are asking for. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


The game SimLife attempts such a thing. However, it uses a laughably simplified model for evolution. And even so, keeping track of enough members of just a few species winds up straining home PC resources to the breaking point. The best ecosystem I ever got it to simulate stably was a very simple predator/prey world. Probably it would have been able to do much more if it hadn't been so graphics-heavy.

The problem is, you need LARGE populations of predators, interacting with 100x as many prey, interacting with 100x as many plants. And that's just for 1 species apiece, in one biome. For an entire world, you'd need a computer as large as an entire world. (Don't panic.)

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, they've replace SimLife with SimEarth now. Haven't played that, but same problems will apply. $\endgroup$
    – dmm
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 17:26

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