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Mechanistic interactions as the origin of modularity in biological networks


Wechsler, Daniel; Bascompte, Jordi (2024). Mechanistic interactions as the origin of modularity in biological networks. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 291(2021):20240269.

Abstract

Biological networks are often modular. Explanations for this peculiarity either assume an adaptive advantage of a modular design such as higher robustness, or attribute it to neutral factors such as constraints underlying network assembly. Interestingly, most insights on the origin of modularity stem from models in which interactions are either determined by highly simplistic mechanisms, or have no mechanistic basis at all. Yet, empirical knowledge suggests that biological interactions are often mediated by complex structural or behavioural traits. Here, we investigate the origins of modularity using a model in which interactions are determined by potentially complex traits. Specifically, we model system elements—such as the species in an ecosystem—as finite-state machines (FSMs), and determine their interactions by means of communication between the corresponding FSMs. Using this model, we show that modularity probably emerges for free. We further find that the more modular an interaction network is, the less complex are the traits that mediate the interactions. Altogether, our results suggest that the conditions for modularity to evolve may be much broader than previously thought.

Abstract

Biological networks are often modular. Explanations for this peculiarity either assume an adaptive advantage of a modular design such as higher robustness, or attribute it to neutral factors such as constraints underlying network assembly. Interestingly, most insights on the origin of modularity stem from models in which interactions are either determined by highly simplistic mechanisms, or have no mechanistic basis at all. Yet, empirical knowledge suggests that biological interactions are often mediated by complex structural or behavioural traits. Here, we investigate the origins of modularity using a model in which interactions are determined by potentially complex traits. Specifically, we model system elements—such as the species in an ecosystem—as finite-state machines (FSMs), and determine their interactions by means of communication between the corresponding FSMs. Using this model, we show that modularity probably emerges for free. We further find that the more modular an interaction network is, the less complex are the traits that mediate the interactions. Altogether, our results suggest that the conditions for modularity to evolve may be much broader than previously thought.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Immunology and Microbiology
Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Physical Sciences > General Environmental Science
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Agricultural and Biological Sciences, General Environmental Science, General Immunology and Microbiology, General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Medicine
Language:English
Date:17 April 2024
Deposited On:26 Apr 2024 09:43
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:41
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8452
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2024.0269
PubMed ID:38628127