Can we predict adaptation?
The short answer is not yet.
My latest paper on the effect of the environment on pre-existing epistasis among adaptive mutations is available via PLOS Genetics.
Please feel free to read the paper and I encourage you to post a comment (none so far!) and join in on the discussion or here if you wish.
I want to better understand how organisms adapt
so we can predict how organisms will adapt in the future.
Why? Understanding adaptation has implications in many areas of our lives. The most well-known example is likely the evolution of antibiotic resistance by pathogenic microbes. If we better understand how this process occurs, perhaps we can develop better ways to combat it and design better treatment strategies.
Adaptation also applies to conservation biology. Numerous industrial applications also rely on biological systems that inherently adapt.
By building a better model of how organisms adapt in general, we might be able to tackle some of these challenges.
The take home message of my paper is that context matters.
To make evolutionary biology a predictive science, we need determine how general findings about how organisms adapt are.
In our study, we found that interactions between genes fluctuate in alternative contexts.
We need to better understand complexity to predict adaptive outcomes.
Consider that natural environments are not static, unlike controlled laboratory conditions. A basic example of this would be seasonal variation. Watching any survival show airing on TV lately will also demonstrate how quickly conditions can change and how serious these changes can be for things like survival.
We are making strides towards addressing complexity and I am keeping an eye on the field of complex systems science in the future for advances in this area.