> Computational Evolutionary Biology

What makes organisms so evolvable?

The evolutionary origins of modularity

A central biological question is how natural organisms are so evolvable (capable of quickly adapting to new environments). A key driver of evolvability is the widespread modularity of biological networks--their organization as functional, sparsely connected subunits--but there is no consensus regarding why modularity itself evolved.

While most hypotheses assume indirect selection for evolvability, we propose that the ubiquitous, direct selection pressure to reduce the cost of connections between network nodes causes the emergence of modular networks.

Experiments with selection pressures to maximize network performance and minimize connection costs yield networks that are significantly more modular and more evolvable than control experiments that only select for performance.


Articles in peer-reviewed journals


H. Mengistu, J. Huizinga, J.-B Mouret, J. Clune (2016). The Evolutionary Origins of Hierarchy.
PLoS Computational Biology. 12. (6) Public Library of Science. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004829.s021
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K. Ellefsen, J.-B Mouret, J. Clune (2015). Neural Modularity Helps Organisms Evolve to Learn New Skills without Forgetting Old Skills.
PLoS Computational Biology. 11. (4) e1004128. Public Library of Science. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004128.s009
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J. Clune*, J.-B Mouret, H. Lipson (2013). The evolutionary origins of modularity.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 280 (* J. Clune and J.-B. Mouret contributed equally to this work). 20122863. 10.1098/rspb.2012.2863
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P. Tonelli, J.-B Mouret (2013). On the Relationships between Generative Encodings, Regularity, and Learning Abilities when Evolving Plastic Artificial Neural Networks.
PLoS One. 8. (11) e79138. 10.1371/journal.pone.0079138
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Articles in peer-reviewed conferences


J.-B Mouret, S. Doncieux, B. Girard (2010). Importing the Computational Neuroscience Toolbox into Neuro-Evolution---Application to Basal Ganglia.
Proc. of GECCO 587-594. ACM. 10.1145/1830483.1830592
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P. Tonelli, J.-B Mouret, S. Doncieux (2009). Influence of Promoter Length on Network Convergence in GRN-based Evolutionary Algorithms.
Proc. of The 10th European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL) 302-309. Springer. 10.1007/978-3-642-21314-4_38
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