Santa Fe Institute

SFI to participate in unprecedented evolutionary research project

April 8, 2016 12:46 p.m.

A collaboration of international researchers has been awarded $8 million to extend our understanding of evolution. Among the eight institutions participating in the unprecedented effort to explore how environment and other non-genetic factors play into evolutionary processes, SFI will contribute research and tools from complex systems science. 

The grant from the John Templeton Foundation is one of the largest ever to be awarded to evolutionary research. More about the John Templeton Foundation here.

"The large team of researchers will finally attempt to bring under one roof the various ways information can get from generation to generation" says Michael Lachmann, an SFI Professor who will be exploring this issue through mathematical modelling and information theory. 

Picking up where standard evolutionary theory leaves off, the program aims to account for developmental processes and reciprocal causations that aren’t explained by genetic inheritance alone. Epigenetics, the process through which the genotype of the embryo, its DNA, with environmental and parental influence, unfolds to an adult organism, is one well-known example. Other “hotly contested processes in evolution,” according to the program’s website, include niche-construction and non-genetic inheritance.

The program will test extended evolutionary theory through coordinated experimental and theoretical studies across participating institutions. The University of St. Andrews in Scotland is leading the international, multi-disciplinary research effort.

For a full list of participating institutions, researchers, constituent research projects and overarching objectives, see the program website.

Read the press release from the University of St. Andrews (April 7, 2016)

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