ABSTRACT: Darwin’s grand view was one in which the Struggle for Life figured prominently. And indeed, the metaphor of “nature red in tooth and claw” still looms large in the imagination of laymen and scientists alike. However, for decades it has been apparent that not just competitive, but also cooperative interactions are fundamental features of biological systems ranging from enzymes to organelles, to cells and societies of cells and organisms. The Georgia Tech node of the Astrobiology Institute is organized around five questions related to major transitions in the history of Life: How do enzymes and metabolic networks evolve? How did the eukaryotic cell come to be? How do symbioses arise? How does multicellularity evolve? and How do pleiotropy, epistasis and mutation rate constrain the evolution of novel traits? A unifying theme woven into these questions is: How do cooperative vs. competitive interactions play out in driving major transitions that occur when independently replicating entities coalesce to form autonomous, more complex wholes? Our team seeks to uncover general principles likely to hold wherever life exists and to collectively affect its degree of complexity. Seeking answers to these questions falls squarely within the purview of Astrobiology, which is the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe, and helps to address its overarching question: How does life begin and evolve?
Snacks and refreshments provided.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Brian M. Hynek
Director, CU Center for Astrobiology
Department of Geological Sciences
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
3665 Discovery Drive
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80303