> 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.


J. Clune, J.-B Mouret, H. Lipson (2013). The evolutionary origins of modularity.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 280. 20122863. 10.1098/rspb.2012.2863
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K. Olav 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
→ [pdf]



Funding provided by an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology to J.C. (DBI-1003220) and NSF CDI Grant ECCS 0941561. J.B.M. is supported by the ANR (project Creadapt ANR- 12-JS03-0009).

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