Place: 4274 Chamberlin (Refreshments will be served)
Speaker: John Hawks, UW Department of Anthropology
Abstract: Adaptation by natural selection is a genetically heterogeneous process. Some adaptive phenotypes are the result of simple genetic changes under positive natural selection. But some adaptive phenotypes are more complex, requiring changes to a network of interacting genes, possibly in addition to gene-environment interactions. Is there any general process by which such complex adaptations can be understood, or are they a simple stochastic accumulation of simple changes? The record of recent human evolution provides a wealth of cases of genetic and cultural changes that have unfolded convergently in different populations. Genetic adaptation to new pathogens, new diets and new physical environments allows us to probe the networks of genetic interactions and the timing of changes on multiple human genes. Cultural adaptation to new diets and modes of social organization also allow us to examine how evolutionary dynamics may constrain the path taken by complex adaptations. I lay out a research agenda that distinguishes functional networks from evolutionary networks, giving us a way to discuss the origins of complexity through evolutionary time.