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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 30;280(1755):20122863. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2863. Print 2013 Mar 22.

The evolutionary origins of modularity.

Author information

1
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. jclune@uwyo.edu

Abstract

A central biological question is how natural organisms are so evolvable (capable of quickly adapting to new environments). A key driver of evolvability is the widespread modularity of biological networks--their organization as functional, sparsely connected subunits--but there is no consensus regarding why modularity itself evolved. Although most hypotheses assume indirect selection for evolvability, here we demonstrate that the ubiquitous, direct selection pressure to reduce the cost of connections between network nodes causes the emergence of modular networks. Computational evolution experiments with selection pressures to maximize network performance and minimize connection costs yield networks that are significantly more modular and more evolvable than control experiments that only select for performance. These results will catalyse research in numerous disciplines, such as neuroscience and genetics, and enhance our ability to harness evolution for engineering purposes.

PMID:
23363632
PMCID:
PMC3574393
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2012.2863
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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