Posted by: Dan | May 24, 2007

Adaptation and Complex Design

I just noticed that last week, PNAS had an interesting colloquia series of papers published, In Light of Evolution: Adaptation and Complex Design. The author list in the table of contents appears to be a who’s who on complexity and evolution.

Notable authors and titles include:

Francisco J. Ayala – Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer

Robert M. Hazen – Functional information and the emergence of biocomplexity

Gerhart/Kirschner – The theory of facilitated variation

Adam S. Wilkins – Between “design” and “bricolage”: Genetic networks, levels of selection, and adaptive evolution

Michael Lynch – The frailty of adaptive hypotheses for the origins of organismal complexity

Benjamin Prud’homme (with Sean B. Carroll) – Emerging principles of regulatory evolution

Richard E. Michod – Evolution of individuality during the transition from unicellular to multicellular life

Joan E. Strassmann – Insect societies as divided organisms: The complexities of purpose and cross-purpose

Nancy A. Moran – Symbiosis as an adaptive process and source of phenotypic complexity

Francesca D. Frentiu – Adaptive evolution of color vision as seen through the eyes of butterflies

Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra – Plant domestication, a unique opportunity to identify the genetic basis of adaptation

Cynthia M. Beall – Two routes to functional adaptation: Tibetan and Andean high-altitude natives

Douglas J. Emlen – On the origin and evolutionary diversification of beetle horns

Eugenie Scott/Nicholas J. Matzke – Biological design in science classrooms

Bennett/Lenski – An experimental test of evolutionary trade-offs during temperature adaptation

And a related blogpost (not in PNAS) by Larry Moran, The deflated ego problem: How humans get away with having a small genome.

Given our complexity—our capabilities for abstract thought, language, the building of civilizations—biologists were surprised at the relatively small number of genes we possess when they first began studying the human genome. It has since been become clear that our 20,000 to 25,000 genes can be manipulated by processes that statistically enhance the variety of ways in which each gene becomes manifest in our physical makeup.


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