Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Metabolism and Mass Are Deeply Related And Powerfully Drive Evolution

A new preprint describes in detail how metabolism and body mass are intimately related to each other and to other key aspects of how they have evolved. Natural selection has been a unifying force explaining this process from the scale of viruses all of the way up to elephants and whales. 
I show that the natural selection of metabolism and mass is selecting for the major life history and allometric transitions that define lifeforms from viruses, over prokaryotes and larger unicells, to multicellular animals with sexual reproduction. 
The proposed selection is driven by a mass specific metabolism that is selected as the pace of the resource handling that generates net energy for self-replication. This implies that an initial selection of mass is given by a dependence of mass specific metabolism on mass in replicators that are close to a lower size limit. 
A maximum dependence that is sublinear is shown to select for virus-like replicators with no intrinsic metabolism, no cell, and practically no mass. A maximum superlinear dependence is instead selecting for prokaryote-like self-replicating cells with asexual reproduction and incomplete metabolic pathways. 
These self-replicating cells have selection for increased net energy, and this generates a gradual unfolding of a population dynamic feed-back selection from interactive competition. The incomplete feed-back is shown to select for larger unicells with more developed metabolic pathways, and the completely developed feed-back to select for multicellular animals with sexual reproduction. 
This model unifies natural selection from viruses to multicellular animals, and it provides a parsimonious explanation where allometries and major life history transitions evolve from the natural selection of metabolism and mass.
Lars Witing, "The natural selection of metabolism and mass selects lifeforms from viruses to multicellular animals" (November 15, 2016). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/087650

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