Evo-devo meets devo-devo: the evolution of complex synergies

Friday seminar by Terrence W. Deacon from Dept. of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. Now with abstract.

Welcome! The CEES Extra Seminars are open for all.


One of the most enigmatic challenges for evolutionary theory is to account for major evolutionary transitions that produce higher order evolutionary synergies. Examples include the origin of eukaryotes, the origin of multicelled organisms, the evolution of eusociality, the evolution of language, and even the evolution of prosociality in general, etc. Each of these (and other such major transitions in evolution) involve loss of autonomy of lower level units and the establishment of ineluctable synergistic interdependencies at the higher level. Much theoretical work has been done investigating each of these transitions, but there isn't a unifying approach to understand the evolutionary processes involved.

Much of the theoretical work has focused on mechanisms that prevent "backsliding" and the re-expression of lower level autonomy, but less work has explored how novel synergistic interdependency and "cooperation" emerges from ubiquitously selfish autonomus precursers.

In this presentation I will explore the possible role that relaxed selection and "elegant" functional degradation may be playing in enabling synergistic transitions.

Deacon's Research

Professor Deacon's research has combined human evolutionary biology and neuroscience, with the aim of investigating the evolution of human cognition. His work extends from laboratory-based cellular-molecular neurobiology to the study of semiotic processes underlying animal and human communication, especially language. Many of these interests are explored in his 1997 book, The Symbolic Species: The Coevolution of Language and the Brain. (Source: anthropology.berkeley.edu/).

Published Dec. 9, 2014 10:09 AM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2019 10:09 AM