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PLoS Comput Biol. 2009 Apr;5(4):e1000355. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000355. Epub 2009 Apr 10.

An analytically solvable model for rapid evolution of modular structure.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Biological systems often display modularity, in the sense that they can be decomposed into nearly independent subsystems. Recent studies have suggested that modular structure can spontaneously emerge if goals (environments) change over time, such that each new goal shares the same set of sub-problems with previous goals. Such modularly varying goals can also dramatically speed up evolution, relative to evolution under a constant goal. These studies were based on simulations of model systems, such as logic circuits and RNA structure, which are generally not easy to treat analytically. We present, here, a simple model for evolution under modularly varying goals that can be solved analytically. This model helps to understand some of the fundamental mechanisms that lead to rapid emergence of modular structure under modularly varying goals. In particular, the model suggests a mechanism for the dramatic speedup in evolution observed under such temporally varying goals.

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