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Title: Modelling biological form in evolution
Author: Cotton-Barratt, Rebecca
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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How are processes working at the individual level, the species level and the macro-ecological level connected? This thesis explores the theoretical and structural constraints on biological evolution. It does this by developing an evolutionary program to model biological form. This development was necessary as the existing models of evolution are poorly suited to modelling morphological constraint. The model of biological form developed in this thesis uses graphs to abstractly represent organisms and the relationships of their internal structure. We show that by increasing the number of degrees of freedom, or by increasing the ruggedness of the fitness landscape, higher levels of diversity are supported - particularly when there is strong directional selection. We explore whether meta-regulation is bounded in the model by using an analytical framework. We show that there is no analytical steady state, but that one can be induced in the model by selection effects. We find that a mixed strategy between increasing object complexity and increasing hierarchical complexity maximises the average degree of a vertex. This agrees with the evolutionary history of meta-regulation. We claim that the macro-ecological response to environmental perturbation is determined by both the characteristic time scale of mutation and the time scale of the environmental change. We show that for high amplitude changes the system can adapt provide the mutation time scale is smaller than the environmental change. We also show that low amplitude environmental changes cause rapid turnovers in species' diversity. Finally, we show that mass extinctions can be the result of species' interactions and background rates of extinction, and do not need large external perturbations to occur. This, combined with the results above, suggests that many of the trends seen over geologically long time periods can be explained as a result of the interacting processes at the individual and species level.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Q Science (General) ; QH301 Biology