The geometry of evolution

Biosystems. 1990;24(1):61-81. doi: 10.1016/0303-2647(90)90030-5.


Some structures are more suitable for self-organization through the Darwin-Wallace mechanism of variation and selection than others. Such evolutionary adaptability (or evolvability) can itself evolve through variation and selection, either by virtue of being associated with reliability and stability or by hitchhiking along with the advantageous traits whose appearance it facilitates. In order for a structure to evolve there must be a reasonable probability that genetic variation carries it from one adaptive peak to another; at the same time the structure should not be overly unstable to phenotypic perturbations, as this is incompatible with occupying a peak. Organizations that are complex in terms of numbers of components and interactions are more likely to meet the peak-climbing condition, but less likely to meet the stability condition. Biological structures that are characterized by a high degree of component redundancy and multiple weak interactions satisfy these conflicting pressures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Environment
  • Genotype
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic