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Journal Article

Noise driven evolutionary waves


Hallatschek,  Oskar
Max Planck Research Group Biological Physics and Evolutionary Dynamics, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Hallatschek, O. (2011). Noise driven evolutionary waves. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(3): e1002005, pp. not given-not given. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002005.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-11D5-5
Adaptation in spatially extended populations entails the propagation of evolutionary novelties across habitat ranges. Driven by natural selection, beneficial mutations sweep through the population in a “wave of advance”. The standard model for these traveling waves, due to R. Fisher and A. Kolmogorov, plays an important role in many scientific areas besides evolution, such as ecology, epidemiology, chemical kinetics, and recently even in particle physics. Here, we extend the Fisher–Kolmogorov model to account for mutations that confer an increase in the density of the population, for instance as a result of an improved metabolic efficiency. We show that these mutations invade by the action of random genetic drift, even if the mutations are slightly deleterious. The ensuing class of noise-driven waves are characterized by a wave speed that decreases with increasing population sizes, contrary to conventional Fisher–Kolmogorov waves. When a trade-off exists between density and growth rate, an evolutionary optimal population density can be predicted. Our simulations and analytical results show that genetic drift in conjunction with spatial structure promotes the economical use of limited resources. The simplicity of our model, which lacks any complex interactions between individuals, suggests that noise-induced pattern formation may arise in many complex biological systems including evolution. Mutations that increase an organism's fitness are the fuel for biological evolution. When such beneficial mutations enter a spatially extended population, they spread through the population in a “wave of advance”, first described by R. Fisher and A. Kolmogorov. The force driving these traveling waves is Darwinian selection, which favors individuals with higher fitness. Here, we describe a new type of traveling mutant wave that is driven by non-selective forces instead-- namely by random genetic drift, which refers to the randomness in the reproduction process. These noise-driven waves promote the economical use of a limited resource because they occur whenever a mutation increases the growth yield, which refers to the biomass produced per unit of resource. Since a change in growth yield and growth rate often occur together and with opposite signs, we argue that both types of mechanisms will jointly decide over the fate of a novel mutation. We predict that the population evolves towards an evolutionary optimal carrying capacity, at which selective and non-selective forces just balance.