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01 January 2009 @ 10:18 am
Blinding Me With Science: Evolutionary Capacitance  
araquan pointed out this 2003 article in Nature that I hadn't seen before.

I'm bookmarking it for discussion and future reference, since (as my last post should suggest) I am in no condition to peruse a lengthy formal paper at the moment.

The opening of the abstract immediately intrigues me, however (and not just because I've been reading too much Gamma World material):

An evolutionary capacitor buffers genotypic variation under normal conditions, thereby promoting the accumulation of hidden polymorphism. But it occasionally fails, thereby revealing this variation phenotypically.

If I'm interpreting this correctly, this suggests a physical mechanism for punctuated equilibrium, as well as suggesting how the usual wisdom that "random mutations should be automatically lethal 99% of the time".

I don't know how the biochemists and geneticists in the audience will react to this, but as a systems scientist, it makes perfect sense to me. Complex systems often develop regulator mechanisms as an emergent behavior.

I feel: thoughtfulthinky
pseudo manitoupseudomanitou on January 1st, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Though they call it a capacitor... I wonder if there are stimuli that cause this buffer to turn off on purpose...
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on January 1st, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
I bookmarked it, too. Like you, I'm not much in the mood to read a long paper about the subject but . . . obviously those complex chemical systems we broadly refer to as life have evolved for the capacity for, y'know, evolution, hehe. That's certainly one of the traits that would be selected for, wouldn't it?
Wywy on January 1st, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Well yeah, that's why sexual selection came about and is incredibly common.

And I've actually read other papers which have proposed a mechanism for punctuated equilibrium, though the mechanism is more in the lines recessives and secondary selection means. In human terms, why although the primary 'mate selection' criteria is 'looks and size', there's still room in the world for geeks and nerds :P