Statistical physics and evolutionary biology

Yesterday, a paper by Harold P. de Vladar, Nick H. Barton appeared at, which discussed some of the advances in evolutionary biology that were made with the help of statistical physics methods, and also some possible directions of future mutual cooperation. The paper itself does not make an impression that it is a finished project, but one paragraph is very well worth quoting:

Second, known results are often rediscovered due to the lack of a common language. For example, the original result that free fitness increases in evolution was illustrated with several examples from population and quantitative genetics, and was interpreted in terms of selection and drift [48]. Yet, the same principle was twice rediscovered by physicists decades later but with more restricted scope [50] Another example is the NK model, where the fitness landscape can be“tuned”, altering the degree of epistasis for fitness, was used to show that recombination is an evolvable trait [72]. Yet, the theoretical analysis of the evolution of sex and recombination has been a thriving field since the 1970’s [73]. No doubt population geneticists have re-derived results well known in physics (e.g. Wright’s calculation of rates of shift between adaptive peaks), but these are not usually published as new physics, and are typically studied for their biological implications.

Right to the money.

Link to the paper.


About Artem Novozhilov

I am an applied mathematician interested in studying various evolutionary processes by means of mathematical models. More on my professional activities can be found on my page
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