Home

Publications

Research

In the News

Available
Positions

Links


Cambridge
Cluster
Database

 

Symmetry and simplicity spontaneously emerge from the algorithmic nature of evolution

Iain G. Johnston, Kamaludin Dingle, Sam F. Greenbury, Chico Q. Camargo, Jonathan P.K. Doye, Sebastian E. Ahnert and Ard A. Louis

submitted

Abstract

Why are symmetric structures so common in biology? Here we combine algorithmic information theory with simulation and biological data to argue that symmetric structures preferentially arise not just due to natural selection, but also because they require less specific information to encode, and are therefore much more likely to appear as phenotypic variation through random mutations. We predict that many genotype-phenotype maps are exponentially biased towards phenotypes whose descriptions are more compressible. A preference for symmetry is a special case of this bias towards descriptional simplicity. Evidence that this bias strongly affects evolutionary outcomes is presented for protein quaternary structures, RNA secondary structures, and gene regulatory networks. Lower descriptional complexity correlates with higher mutational robustness, which may aid the evolution of complex modular assemblies of multiple components.