Filter All Projects

Project Details

McGhee George | Fellow Visitor
2010-06-02 - 2010-08-18 | Research area: EvoDevo
Predictability and the Evolutionary Process
How predictable is evolution? The complete spectrum of disagreement exists at present among evolutionary biologists with regard to this seemingly simple question. One extreme argues that biological evolution is totally and completely unpredictable (Gould, 1989). The other extreme argues that biological evolution not only has a predictable direction, it also has an inevitable destination (Conway Morris, 2003). The proposed research seeks to consider the implications of the pattern of convergent evolution in nature for the question of the predictability of evolution, using the analytical techniques of theoretical morphology. Evolutionary constraint is a key phenomenon that underlies much of the convergent evolution that we see in nature and is, thus, a key to understanding the potential predictability of evolution. Theoretical morphospaces are particularly useful in exploring the limits of constraint on the evolutionary process (McGhee, 2007). For any group of organisms, can we conceptually map the distribution and boundaries of developmental, phylogenetic, functional, and geometric constraints within theoretical morphospace? If we could accomplish this, we would be well on the way to understanding the reason that certain morphological solutions are repeatedly evolved in life, convergent evolution, as a function of the vastly larger areas of morphospace into which life cannot venture. At the KLI, I would like to apply the techniques of theoretical morphospace analysis to the phenomenon of convergent evolution, and to the question of the predictability of evolution.