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Durham University

Computer Science


Publication details for Dr George Mertzios

Díaz, J., Goldberg, L.A., Mertzios, G.B., Richerby, D., Serna, M. & Spirakis, P.G. (2013). On the fixation probability of superstars. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 469(2156): 20130193.

Author(s) from Durham


The Moran process models the spread of genetic mutations through populations. A mutant with relative fitness r is introduced and the system evolves, either reaching fixation (an all-mutant population) or extinction (no mutants). In a widely cited paper, Lieberman et al. (2005 Evolutionary dynamics on graphs. Nature 433, 312–316) generalize the model to populations on the vertices of graphs. They describe a class of graphs (‘superstars’), with a parameter k and state that the fixation probability tends to 1−r−k as the graphs get larger: we show that this is untrue as stated. Specifically, for k=5, we show that the fixation probability (in the limit, as graphs get larger) cannot exceed 1−1/j(r), where j(r)=Θ(r4), contrary to the claimed result. Our proof is fully rigorous, though we use a computer algebra package to invert a 31×31 symbolic matrix. We do believe the qualitative claim of Lieberman et al.—that superstar fixation probability tends to 1 as k increases—and that it can probably be proved similarly to their sketch. We were able to run larger simulations than the ones they presented. Simulations on graphs of around 40 000 vertices do not support their claim but these graphs might be too small to exhibit the limiting behaviour.