Physics and Math Shed New Light On Biology by Mapping the Landscape...

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences make a breakthrough.

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.

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.

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.

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