I am organizing a discussion club on the book “Origins of Evoutionary Innovations” by A. Wagner, for my group.
This book describes how new phenotypes are discovered in evolution. In the first chapter, it starts by describing some examples of notable phenotypes that have appeared, such as the Urea cycle and the ability to use glucose as a carbon source. But in general, this book is about how any novel phenotype appears in evolution.
It also explains the concepts of genotype space and genotype network, and how much variability can a population of organisms withstand without having changes in a given phenotype. For example, there are far more possible mRNAs than the number of proteins observed, so it seems that any given protein can be produced by more than one mRNA. This means that an organism can withstand many changes to its DNA, without suffering changes to the structure of the protein. What is the role of this variability in evolution?
There is also a nice paper published on the topic today, in Science: Meyer JR et al, Repeatability and Contingency in the Evolution of a Key Innovation in Phage Lambda, Science 2012.
The book club will take place only in my lab, but if you are interested, you can follow the slides and comment on this blog. (or would it be better to discuss it on Twitter? Let’s use the #evol_innov_book tag on twitter). Enjoy!