Topic description / abstract:
Evolvability is the ability of a system or population to respond to selection by producing heritable and selectable phenotypic variation. In contrast robustness is the ability of a phenotype to persist against perturbations. Hence, a system cannot be evolvable and robust at the same time. However, evolvability and robustness are both important properties to evolve complex traits. This creates a paradox for the evolution of complex phenotypes. It is assumed that properties of embryological development are playing an important role in determining how genetic variation translates into phenotypic variation and thus affecting the relationship between evolvability and robustness. By investigating the structure of the genotype-phenotype map, we can enhance our knowledge about evolvability and how it shapes evolutionary processes. I am using different types of mathematical models of the genotype-phenotype map to explore different aspects that affect the relationship between evolvability and robustness. I am demonstrating that the relationship between evolvability and robustness depends on the topology of the genotype-phenotype map using the concept of a Boolean genotype-phenotype map. I am challenging this argument using an evolutionary model of a genotype-phenotype map that is motivated by the development of butterfly eyespots. The underlying genetic architecture is a modified pattern-formation model that describes the formation of eyespots on the wings in B. anynana. We investigate the quantitative morphological change of the eyespot under selection to study the relationship between evolvability and robustness.
Christine Syrowatka is a PhD fellow in Thomas Hansen’s lab at the University of Oslo. Her research addresses open questions in evolutionary developmental biology using mathematical and statistical methods and models. In particular, she is investigating the paradoxical relationship between evolvability and robustness by developing models of the genotype-phenotype map and studying it in different contexts. She is now finishing her PhD at the KLI.