Progress in science often begins with verbal hypotheses meant to explain why certain biological phenomena exist. An important purpose of mathematical models in evolutionary research, as in many other fields, is to act as “proof-of-concept” tests of the logic in verbal explanations, paralleling the way in which empirical data are used to test hypotheses. Because not all subfields of biology use mathematics for this purpose, misunderstandings of the function of proof-of-concept modeling are common. In the hope of facilitating communication, we discuss the role of proof-of-concept modeling in evolutionary biology.

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Published in PLOS Biology, v. 12, no. 12, article e1002017, p. 1-5.

© 2014 Servedio et al.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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MRS was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grants DEB-0919018 and DEB-1255777, and CF and JV were supported by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), NSF EF-0423641. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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