Tag Archives: adaptation

Visualizing Macroevolution

fig03b_simpson_modesThe adaptive landscape is an important diagrammatic concept that was conceived in population genetics. During the Modern Synthesis, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, the landscape imagery was used to represent evolution on a large scale, aiding in the construction of a common language for a new evolutionary biology. Not only historic adaptive landscapes by Dobzhansky, Simpson, and others are a record of how macroevolution was thought of in those decades; they stimulate reflection on ‘combination spaces’ that underlie them. In fact, any landscape diagram is the three-dimensional transposition of a multidimensional space of combinations of genes, morphological traits, or other kinds of variables. This is an important and enduring general point of awareness: the diagram displays some aspects of the considered space while hiding others, exposing the author and the user to incomplete understanding and to conflating different spaces. Today, macroevolution is studied as a multifarious exploration of spaces of possibilities of all different sorts, interconnected in complex ways: genotype spaces, molecular spaces, morphospaces, geographical spaces, ecological spaces, genealogical spaces. Actual macroevolutionary stories and outcomes are a subset of what is, in principle, possible in all of these spaces, composed by possible combinations—of genes, nucleotides, morphological traits, environmental variables. Visualizations of macroevolution are a challenge of showing both distinction and correlation between spaces of possibilities.

Keywords: adaptation, speciation, macroevolution, visualization


Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Serrelli E (2015). Visualizing macroevolution: from adaptive landscapes to compositions of multiple spaces. In Serrelli E, Gontier N, eds., Macroevolution: explanation, interpretation and evidence. Interdisciplinary Evolution Research series, Springer, pp. 113-162. ISBN 978-3-319-15044-4 [DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-15045-1_4] [BOA] [Ac] [RG]

Ilya Tëmkin – Perils and promises of cultural phylogenies: evolution of the Baltic Psaltery

CISEPS – Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology and Social Sciences

Perils and promises of cultural phylogenies: Evolution of the Baltic Psaltery

Ilya Tëmkin
National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) and NOVA (Northern Virginia Community College)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 12:00pm
Room U6/3061, Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo 1, Milano

psaltery-phylogenyAbstract: The new millennium has brought a new impetus for rigorous historical reconstruction into the field of material cultural evolution by applying phylogenetic analysis (originally developed for discerning evolutionary relationships among living organisms). A detailed study of the Baltic psaltery, a plucked stringed instrument that has enjoyed popularity in Northeastern Europe since the Middle Ages, reveals perils and promises of these methods, particularly of novel network-based approaches. Every group of people that has preserved the instrument, regards it as an essential symbol of their ethnic identity with its presumed origin and significance deeply rooted in traditional culture, as evidenced through mythology, epic poetry, songs, and ritual. Despite its cultural significance, the history of the Baltic psaltery has been a controversial subject for over a century. The patterns of historical relationships revealed by phylogenetics-inspired approaches may help settling the controversy and link disparate data on the iconography, archaeology, and cultural anthropology of the Baltic psaltery.

The seminar is part of the CISEPS project The diffusion of cultural traits, whose goal is to trigger interdiciplinary debates, emphasizing common problems and peculiarities among economics, philosophy, anthropology, geography, history, biology and many more fields. Thinking in terms of cultural traits – i.e., characters depending in some way on social learning – doesn’t imply exhaustion of cultural processes; rather, it means thinking critically to scientific models and metaphors for studying culture.

Mario Barenghi – Nothing but survival: On the origin and spread of literature

CISEPS – Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology and Social Sciences

Nothing but survival: On the origin and spread of literature

Mario Barenghi
University of Milano Bicocca

January 31, 2013, 2:30pm
Room U6/3061, Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo 1, Milano

literature-survivalAbstract: For a long time literary theorists have been concerned with the question “What is literature?”. This issue does not raise the same interest in our days. After all, what really matters is what we do with literature, whatever it is. Time has come for a comparison between literary and evolutionary studies. The question we should ask is: “Why is literature?” Where do poetic uses of language rise from? For what reason or reasons, in a remote era of our history, our ancestors have started to spend (or lavish) both time and mental energies in seemingly free and relaxed verbal activities which are unrelated to immediate needs? Which are the features of human behaviour that literature tends to foster and strengthen? In this workshop Mario Barenghi argues that literature’s aim is nothing but survival.

The seminar is part of the CISEPS project The diffusion of cultural traits, whose goal is to trigger interdiciplinary debates, emphasizing common problems and peculiarities among economics, philosophy, anthropology, geography, history, biology and many more fields. Thinking in terms of cultural traits – i.e., characters depending in some way on social learning – doesn’t imply exhaustion of cultural processes; rather, it means thinking critically to scientific models and metaphors for studying culture.

PhD Dissertation

This dissertation brings a contribution to the philosophical debate on adaptive landscapes, an influent “model” or “metaphor” in evolutionary biology. Some elements of innovation are: the distinction between native and migrant metaphor; a processual and communicational idea on what the Modern Synthesis was, and on what role a metaphor could have played in it; a view (taken by Richard Lewontin) of the disunity and theoretical structure of population genetics; the distinction between “adaptive surfaces” (mainly metaphors) and “combination spaces”, two terms normally conflated in the word “landscape”; an analysis of what bridges (including heuristics) may be cast between equations of gene frequency and the genotype space that, due to its huge dimensionality, cannot be handled by mathematics; a specified vocabulary to be used to clear the adaptive landscapes debate, accompanied by a plea in favor of a pragmatic approach – for example, the plurality of available notions of model forces us to choose one notion and see where it brings, otherwise we get stuck in confused, endless debates; an updated analytical comment of recent landscapes – Dobzhansky, Simpson, Dawkins but also the proliferation of combination spaces used in evolutionary biology to address a great variety of problems; the vision (got by Sergey Gavrilets) of a patchwork of tools finally making Mendelian population suitable model also for speciation; the exact position of holey landscapes in this patchwork, and the idea that scientists’s questions – like “how possibly” questions – matter in accessing this patchwork and in deciding “what explains” and “what describes” what in the world; the direct response to some mistakes Massimo Pigliucci made, I think, in his assessment of the adaptive landscape; an analysis of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis project at its present stage, and some reflections on the conditions that will allow such a project to give a fair treatment and a good position to tools from the past, like the adaptive landscapes.


Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Serrelli E (2011). Adaptive landscapes: a case study of metaphors, models, and synthesis in evolutionary biology. PhD Dissertation in Educational and Communicational Sciences, Human Sciences Doctorate School, University of Milano Bicocca, Milan, Italy. [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/19338]

http://www.slideshare.net/eserrelli/adaptive-landscapes-a-case-study-of-metaphors-models-and-synthesis-in-evolutionary-biology

A conceptual taxonomy of adaptation in evolutionary biology

The concept of adaptation is employed in many fields such as biology, psychology, cognitive sciences, robotics, social sciences, even literacy and art,1 and its meaning varies quite evidently according to the particular research context in which it is applied. We expect to find a particularly rich catalogue of meanings within evolutionary biology, where adaptation has held a particularly central role since Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859) throughout important epistemological shifts and scientific findings that enriched and diversified the concept. Accordingly, a conceptual taxonomy of adaptation in evolutionary biology may help to disambiguate it. Interdisciplinary researches focused on adaptation would benefit from such a result. In the present work we recognize and define seven different meanings of adaptation: (1) individual fitness; (2) adaptation of a population; (3) adaptation as the process of natural selection; (4) adaptive traits; (5) molecular adaptation; (6) adaptation as structural tinkering; (7) plasticity. For convenience here, we refer to them as W-, P-, NS-, T-, M-, S- and PL-ADAPTATION. We present the seven meanings in some detail, hinting at their respective origins and conceptual developments in the history of evolutionary thought (references are offered for further deepening). However, it is important to point out that evolution researchers seldom if ever refer to a single meaning purified from the others. This applies also to the authors we cite as representatives of one of the seven meanings. In Discussion and Conclusion draw from our work some future perspectives for adaptation within evolutionary biology.


Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Serrelli E, Rossi FM (2009). A conceptual taxonomy of adaptation in evolutionary biology. doi 10.13140/2.1.4366.7209