Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Physics and math shed new light on biology by mapping the landscape of evolution

Date:
August 8, 2012
Source:
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Summary:
Researchers capture evolutionary dynamics in a new theoretical framework that could help explain some of the mysteries of how and why species change over time.

Although the qualitative description of evolution -- its observed behavior and characteristics -- is well-established, a comprehensive quantitative theory that captures general evolution dynamics is still lacking. There are also many lingering mysteries surrounding the story of life on Earth, including the question of why sex is such a prevalent reproductive strategy. A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Jilin University in Jilin, China; and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, led by Prof. Jin Wang, has examined some of these puzzles from a physical science prospective.

They propose a new theory of evolution with two ingredients: the underlying emergent "fitness" landscape and an associated evolutionary force called "curl flux," which causes species to move through the emergent fitness landscape in a spiraling manner.

The researchers captured evolutionary relationships in a system of equations. They then created quantitative pictures that visualized evolutionary pathways as journeys through a mountainous terrain of peaks and valleys of biological fitness. The key breakthrough beyond the conventional quantitative theory of evolution is the emergent curl flux, which is generated by interactions between individuals within or across species. The underlying emergent landscape gradient and the curl flux act together as a "Yin and Yang" duality pair to determine the dynamics of general evolution, says Wang. An example of similar behavior is the particle and wave duality that determines the dynamics of the quantum world, he notes. The researchers also note that this combined effect is analogous to the way electric and magnetic forces both act on electrons.

The new theory provides a physical foundation for general evolution dynamics. The researchers found that interactions between individuals of different species can give rise to the curl flux. This can sustain an endless evolution that does not lead to areas of higher relative fitness, even if the physical environment is unchanged.

This finding offers a theoretical framework to explain the Red Queen Hypothesis, which states that species continually evolve in order to fend off parasites that are themselves continually evolving. The hypothesis, first proposed by evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen in 1973, gets its name from the character of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's book Through the Looking-Glass, who observed that in her world it was necessary to keep running just to stay in one place. The idea of endless co-evolution through the maintenance of the genetic variation due to the curl flux could help explain the benefits of sexual reproduction, since the mixing and matching of genes preserves a greater diversity of traits. When a species' arms race with a co-evolving parasite takes an unexpected twist, a previously unnecessary trait could suddenly turn into the key to surviving. In the co-evolving world, there is no guarantee for "survival of the fittest" and it is often necessary to keep running for survival. The researchers publish their results in the American Institute of Physics' Journal of Chemical Physics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Physics (AIP). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Feng Zhang, Li Xu, Kun Zhang, Erkang Wang, and Jin Wang. The potential and flux landscape theory of evolution. The Journal of Chemical Physics, 2012 DOI: 10.1063/1.4734305

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Physics (AIP). "Physics and math shed new light on biology by mapping the landscape of evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132454.htm>.
American Institute of Physics (AIP). (2012, August 8). Physics and math shed new light on biology by mapping the landscape of evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132454.htm
American Institute of Physics (AIP). "Physics and math shed new light on biology by mapping the landscape of evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132454.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
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