The Origins of Evolutionary Innovations: A Theory of Transformative Change in Living Systems

Paperback | August 14, 2011

byAndreas Wagner

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The history of life is a nearly four billion year old story of transformative change. This change ranges from dramatic macroscopic innovations such as the evolution of wings or eyes, to a myriad of molecular changes that form the basis of macroscopic innovations. We are familiar with manyexamples of innovations (qualitatively new phenotypes that provide a critical benefit) but have no systematic understanding of the principles that allow organisms to innovate. This book proposes several such principles as the basis of a theory of innovation, integrating recent knowledge about complex molecular phenotypes with more traditional Darwinian thinking. Central to the book are genotype networks: vast sets of connected genotypes that exist in metabolism andregulatory circuitry, as well as in protein and RNA molecules. The theory can successfully unify innovations that occur at different levels of organization. It captures known features of biological innovation, including the fact that many innovations occur multiple times independently, and that theycombine existing parts of a system to new purposes. It also argues that environmental change is important to create biological systems that are both complex and robust, and shows how such robustness can facilitate innovation. Beyond that, the theory can reconcile neutralism and selectionism, as wellas explain the role of phenotypic plasticity, gene duplication, recombination, and cryptic variation in innovation. Finally, its principles can be applied to technological innovation, and thus open to human engineering endeavours the powerful principles that have allowed life's spectacularsuccess.

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The history of life is a nearly four billion year old story of transformative change. This change ranges from dramatic macroscopic innovations such as the evolution of wings or eyes, to a myriad of molecular changes that form the basis of macroscopic innovations. We are familiar with manyexamples of innovations (qualitatively new pheno...

Andreas Wagner is professor in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute for the study of Complex Systems. His main research interest is the evolution of biological systems, from genes to complex biological networks with...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 9.69 × 7.44 × 0.66 inPublished:August 14, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199692602

ISBN - 13:9780199692606

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Metabolic innovation3. Innovation through regulation4. Novel molecules5. The origins of evolutionary innovation6. Genotype networks, self-organization, and natural selection7. A synthesis of neutralism and selectionism8. The role of robustness for innovation9. Gene duplications and innovation10. The role of recombination11. Environmental change in adaptation and innovation12. Evolutionary constraints and genotype spaces13. Phenotypic plasticity and innovation14. Towards continuous genotype spaces15. Evolvable technology and innovation16. Summary and outlookBibliographyIndex