Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Evolution Learns From Past Environments To Adapt To New Environments

Date:
November 10, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
The evolution of novel characteristics within organisms can be enhanced when environments change in a systematic manner, according to a new study. Researchers suggest that in environments that vary over time in a non-random way, evolution can learn the rules of the environment and develop organisms that can readily generate novel useful traits with only a few mutations.

A small number of mutations evokes large useful phenotypic adaptation in systems showing facilitated variation. (A) Beaks of Darwin's finches. (B) RNA secondary structure evolved under modularly varying goals (MVG). (C) Logic circuit evolved under MVG of decomposable Boolean functions.
Credit: PLoS Comput Biol - doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000206.g001

The evolution of novel characteristics within organisms can be enhanced when environments change in a systematic manner, according to a new study by Weizmann Institute researchers.

Merav Parter, Nadav Kashtan and Uri Alon suggest that in environments that vary over time in a non-random way, evolution can learn the rules of the environment and develop organisms that can readily generate novel useful traits with only a few mutations. Details are published November 7 in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

The ability to generate novelty is one of the main mysteries in evolutionary theory. Recently, discoveries in evolution, genetics and developmental biology have been integrated to suggest that organisms have facilitated variation: a design whereby random genetic changes result in novel characteristics (phenotypes) that could be useful. For example, any one of many possible mutations within birds can result in a new beak shape appropriate for a new environment. This leaves the question of how facilitated variation spontaneously evolves.

In this study Parter, Kashtan and Alon began with the observation that environments in nature seemingly vary according to common rules or regularities. They proposed that organisms can learn how previous environments changed, and then use this information for their evolutionary advantage in the future. For example, if the available seeds tended to vary in size and hardness along history, then bird species might have learned to develop beaks with an easily tunable size and strength.

To check their hypothesis, the group employed computer simulations of evolution of simple computational 'organisms'. These organisms were evolved under two different scenarios: The first class evolved under unchanging environment, and the second class evolved under a systemically changing environment.

The two scenarios yielded organisms with different designs. The organisms evolved under varying environments stored information about their history in their genome and developed a special modular design. Interestingly, they were able to generate novel useful phenotypes for a novel environment, as long as it shared the same rules with past environments.

The present study demonstrates the large effect the environment can have on the evolution of biological designs, and bring us another step forward towards understanding how the ability to generate useful novelties evolve.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Parter M, Kashtan N, Alon U. Facilitated Variation: How Evolution Learns from Past Environments To Generalize to New Environments. PLoS Comput Biol, 2008; 4(11): e1000206 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000206

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "How Evolution Learns From Past Environments To Adapt To New Environments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107071822.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, November 10). How Evolution Learns From Past Environments To Adapt To New Environments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107071822.htm
Public Library of Science. "How Evolution Learns From Past Environments To Adapt To New Environments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107071822.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins