Mobility, spatial heterogeneity, and the adaptiveness of monument building: A test of Dunnell’s waste hypothesis

  1. Andre Costopoulos

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Description: Monuments are perplexing from a Darwinian perspective because building them diverts energy from survival and reproduction. In the late 1980s, Dunnell proposed a solution to this conundrum. He suggested that wasting energy confers an adaptive advantage in highly variable environments. This hypothesis has been used to explain several instances of monument building but it has only been evaluated once and that study suggested it is flawed. Here, we report a series of experiments in which we used an agent-based model to assess the hypothesis while taking into account two factors that could enhance the adaptiveness of waste—restricted agent movement and spatial structure in resource availability. Waste was strongly selected against in most of the experiments. Two experiments suggested that very restricted mobility can select for waste, but this effect disappeared when environmental variation increased from moderate to high. Thus, our experiments also suggest that the waste hypothesis is flawed.


The NetLogo code for the model and our R scripts can be downloaded at


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