Monday, March 4, 2013

rules in biological systems

Researchers are often surprised when we find organisms that break the 'rules' of living systems. These rules include commonly observed phenomena such as amino acid codes, conserved metabolic pathways, etc. Considering the unplanned nature of evolution, it should be surprising that such rules actually exist. It should feel more logical when rules are broken.Well, lets consider other places where we find 'rules'. Human societies have rules, and even though every person has different interests and tastes. People agree on the rules because what is gained from following the rules is probably greater than the gain from breaking the rules (in general). Similarly, perhaps rules exist in living systems because there is sufficient gain - better exchange of information between organisms, better 'modularity' in evolution, role for viral-mediated horizontal gene transfer, etc. Now, the question to ask is - what does it mean when organisms break the roles? Perhaps they belong to a different society with a different 'culture', or perhaps they are lone explorers who do not want to interact with the rest of the system.