Navigation Links
Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model
Date:7/30/2014

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, collaborators from the University of Illinois and National University of Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species evolve over decades to millions of years.

The new model, called a mean field model for competition, incorporates the "Red Queen Effect," an evolutionary hypothesis introduced by Lee Van Valen in the 1970s, which suggests that organisms must constantly increase their fitness (or ability to survive and reproduce) in order to compete with other ever-evolving organisms in an ever-changing environment.

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

The mean field model assumes that new species have competitive advantages that allow them to multiply, but over time new species with even better competitive advantages will evolve and outcompete current species, like a conveyor belt constantly moving backwards.

The model gets its name from field theory, which describes how fields, or a value in space and time, interact with matter. A field is like a mark on a map indicating wind speeds at various locations to measure the wind's velocity. In this ecological context, the "fields" approximate distributions of species abundances.

Ecologists can use models to predict what happens next and diagnose sick ecosystems, said first author James O'Dwyer, an assistant professor of plant biology at Illinois and member of the Institute for Genomic Biology.

The mean field model has improved a fundamental ecology model, called neutral biodiversity theory, which was introduced by Stephen Hubbell in the 1970s. Neutral theory does not account for competition between different species, thus considering all species to be selectively equal.

Neutral theory can predict static distributions and abundances of species reasonably well, but it breaks down when applied to changes in communities and species over time. For instance, the neutral model estimates that certain species of rain forest trees are older than Earth.

"The neutral model relies on random chance," O'Dwyer said. "It's like a series of coin flips and a species has to hit heads every time to become very abundant. That doesn't happen very often."

Imagine these ecological models on a spectrum, O'Dwyer says.

"At one end, we have this neutral model with very few parameters and very simple mechanisms and dynamics, but at the other end, we have models where we try to parameterize every detail," O'Dwyer said. "What's been hardest is to take one or two steps down this spectrum from the neutral model without being sucked down to this very complicated end of the spectrum."

By creating a more realistic model that incorporates species differences, O'Dwyer and co-author Ryan Chisholm, an assistant professor at National University of Singapore, have taken an important step down that spectrum.

"Our model is not the ecological equivalent of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which was a conceptual leap for physics," O'Dwyer said. "It is an incremental step at this point. But we will need those conceptual leaps that incorporate the best parts of different models to really understand complex ecological systems better."

O'Dwyer and Chisholm recently reported this work in Ecology Letters. The Templeton World Charity Foundation (grant # TWCF0079/AB47) supported O'Dwyer's work.

The Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) is dedicated to interdisciplinary genomic research related to health, energy, agriculture and the environment. The Institute's cadre of world-class scientists, collaborative laboratories, and state-of-the-art equipment create an environment that inspires discovery and stimulates bioeconomic development at the University of Illinois. Learn more at http://www.igb.illinois.edu.


'/>"/>
Contact: Nicholas Vasi
nvasi@illinois.edu
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Classical monographs re-published in advanced open access
2. Geniposide protects hippocampal neurons via the non-classical estrogen signaling pathway
3. Which came first, bi- or tricellular pollen? New research updates a classic debate
4. Finding about classic suppressor of immunity points toward new therapies for bad infections
5. Weeding out invasive species with classical biological control
6. Jackson Laboratory researcher Gareth Howell, Ph.D., receives Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize
7. UNC researchers find unsuspected characteristics of new CF drugs, offering potential paths to more effective therapies
8. Decoding characteristic food odors
9. New technique will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis
10. Characteristics of lung cancers arising in germline EGFR T790M mutation carriers
11. Surface characteristics influence cellular growth on semiconductor material
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model
(Date:6/22/2016)... WASHINGTON , June 22, 2016 On ... highly-anticipated call to industry to share solutions for the ... by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), explains that ... nationals are departing the United States ... criminals, and to defeat imposters. Logo - ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... June 15, 2016 Transparency ... titled "Gesture Recognition Market by Application Market - Global Industry Analysis ... 2024". According to the report, the  global gesture recognition ... 2015 and is estimated to grow at a ... by 2024.  Increasing application of gesture ...
(Date:6/3/2016)... , June 3, 2016 ... Management) von Nepal ... und Lieferung hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich Personalisierung, ... führend in der Produktion und Implementierung von ... der Ausschreibung im Januar teilgenommen, aber Decatur ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... WA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... announces the release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention ... recruitment and retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has announced ... biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" ... commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors ... such as WDR5 represent an exciting class of ... precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances have ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... YM (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. ... microbial tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome ... has secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon ... ramp up automation and to advance its drug development ... its new facility. "SVB has been an ... beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," said ...
Breaking Biology Technology: