Say what?

Here is an abstract to a forthcoming paper in Trends in Genetics:

Evolution is a quest for innovation. Organisms adapt to changing natural selection by evolving new phenotypes. Can we read this dynamics in their genomes? Not every mutation under positive selection responds to a change in selection: beneficial changes also occur at evolutionary equilibrium, repairing previous deleterious changes and restoring existing functions. Adaptation, by contrast, is viewed here as a non-equilibrium phenomenon: the genomic response to time-dependent selection. Our approach extends the static concept of fitness landscapes to dynamic fitness seascapes. It shows that adaptation requires a surplus of beneficial substitutions over deleterious ones. Here, we focus on the evolution of yeast and Drosophila genomes, providing examples where adaptive evolution can and cannot be inferred, despite the presence of positive selection.

No it isn’t. No they don’t. Oh, by the way, the authors appear to be physicists.

Mustonena, V. and Lässiga, M. 2009. From fitness landscapes to seascapes: non-equilibrium dynamics of selection and adaptation. Trends in Genetics, in press.


6 comments to Say what?

  • PhDP

    If biologists had a better training, we wouldn’t constantly need to rely on mathematicians or physicists to build evolutionary theory ;)

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  • Anonymous

    That makes my brain hurt. How could it even get through peer review?

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    If biologists had a better training, we wouldn’t constantly need to rely on mathematicians or physicists to build evolutionary theory

    And if physics were more interesting, physicists wouldn’t need to do pretend biology! :-P

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    How could it even get through peer review?

    Because sometimes peer review only catches the larger chunks.

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  • PhDP

    And if physics were more interesting, physicists wouldn’t need to do pretend biology! :-P

    To be fair, many of the most powerful (i.e.: predictive) elements of evolutionary theory were either inspired from physics or directly made by physicist/mathematicians.

    Very few areas of science, if any, depend so much on scientists from other branches to establish the core theory of their field. It’s quite normal as most biologists don’t care much about mathematics, but ultimately it’s not very productive as many (most?) biologists wouldn’t be able to understand the work of giants such as Fisher, Wright, Kimura or Gillespie.

    IMO it’s a real challenge for biology as a whole.

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  • Hopeful Monster

    There’s been a notable physicist or two who has done more than just pretend–Max Delbruck and Seymour Benzer come to mind–but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

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