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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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Earth Life Emerge
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V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Develops, Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis

4. Multicellular Fauna and Flora Organisms in Transition

We next move to this subseguent extravagance of aquatic, amphibian, reptile, avian, mammalian, and primate creaturely complexity. As we have seen, once again impelled by self-organization and selection, unitary cells continued to clump together, divide labors and associate via symbiotic mergers into bounded multicellular animal and plant communities. Along the way, modular organs were formed which vivified and served unitary variegated, mobile, oxygen-breathing, sea to land-dwelling, airborne entities with nervous systems, brains and proactive behavior. A plethora of adaptive environmental vegetation, which contributed in necessary turn to a supportive atmosphere, similarly flourished everywhere it could.

2020: As some 100 entries convey, life’s developmental procession presses forward to a further phase of cellular, organelle, neuronal, genetic, mobile complex, cognizant organisms in viable groupings. From glimpses at century’s turn to this day, a persistent self-assembly of widely diverse, environmentally adapted cellular creatures is seen to have occurred several times. As this evolutionary emergence takes place wherever it can, this advance can again be viewed as another major emergent transition.

2023: We continue with a major emergent transition emphasis for this copious creaturely metazoan section. (I saw a show about a friendly platypus last eve.) Over and again cellular life is now realized to persistently come together amongst all land, sea and avian species toward personal, intelligent, communal collectives. Life is now known to evolve on an oriented, developmental ascent by way a member/group beneficial cooperativity. In 2023, a natural knowledge forms and flourishes in our prodigious PediaPedia resource.

Arias Del Angel, Juan, et al. Interplay of Mesoscale Physics and Agent-like Behaviors in the Parallel Evolution of Aggregative Multicellularity. BMC EvoDevso. 11:21, 2020.
Asllani, Malbor, et al. A Universal Route to Pattern Formation in Multicellular Systems. European Physical Journal B. 93/7, 2020.
Autorino, Camilla and Nicoletta Petridou. Critical Phenomenon in Embryonic Organization. Current Opinion in Systems Biology. Vol. 31, September 2022.
Bernardes, Joana, et al. The Evolution of Convex Trade-off Enables the Transition Towards Multicellularity. Nature Communications. 12/4222, 2021.
Duclos, Kevin, et al. Investigating the Evolution and Development of Biological Complexity under the Framework of Epigenetics. Evolution & Development. July, 2019.
Fisher, R. M., et al. The Evolution of Multicellular Complexity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. July, 2020.
Gosak,, Marko, et al. Networks Behind the Morphology and Structural Design of Living Systems. Physics of Life Reviews. March, 2022.

Hiebert, Laurel, et al. Coloniality, Clonality, and Modularity in Animals. Journal of Experimental Zoology B. April, 2021.
Larson, Ben, et al. Biophysical Principles of Choanoflagellate Self-Organization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117/1303, 2020.
McClusker, Derek. Cellular Self-Organization. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 31/3, 2020.
Simpson, Carl. Adaptation to a Viscous Snowball Earth Ocean as a Path to Complex Multicellularity. American Naturalist. 198.5, 2021.
Wedlich-Soldner, Roland and Timo Betz. Self-Organization: The Fundament of Cell Biology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Vol.373/Iss.1747, 2018.


Cooperation and Major Evolutionary Transitions. www.kitp.ucsb.edu/activities/dbdetails?acro=multicell-c13. A shorter Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics workweek held at the University of California, Santa Barbara, February 4 – 8, 2013. We note in regard to the Kavli “Cooperation and the Evolution of Multicellularity” seminar above, and for its cogent synopsis next .

Cooperation between individuals occurs throughout the biological world. It is one of the most intriguing and least understood phenomena despite its profound consequences and its enduring impact on the history of life. Strikingly similar patterns of cooperative behavior appear across the hierarchies of biological structures: genes have cooperated to form genomes, cells can be organized into multicellular organisms, organisms into societies, and species into ecologies. While analogies between mechanisms of cooperation at different levels of organization suggest themselves, general principles have been difficult to pin down. The evolution of biological complexity, the premier example of which is the origin of multicellularity, involves countless interactions between individuals and the fundamental question remains: Why and how do individuals at one level cooperate to form increasingly more complex levels of biological organization?

There are signs that the study of cooperation and its evolution is entering a new period, as theoretical advances meet with advances in molecular biology, genomics and cell biology. The new tools and technologies available to observe and manipulate genes, cells, microorganisms and collectives have resulted in new experimentally tractable systems and new data to probe classical ideas of fitness, the structure of communities, and the evolution of cooperation. To integrate these advances, this conference brings together eminent researchers in a variety of disciplines; from philosophers and theorists, to genomicists, physicists and molecular biology empiricists. The aim is to draw on a range of expertise revolving around the central notion of cooperation, where we hope the interplay of theory and experiment can provide the foundation for new collaborative work in the field. The conference is provisionally divided broadly into 5 groupings: (i) Cooperation and major evolutionary transitions; (ii) Origin and evolution of genomes: selfish genes, cooperative genes and the origin of life; (iii) Co-evolution of protein interactions; (iv) Mutualisms and molecules: Mitochondria and chloroplasts; and (v) Evolution of sex / insect societies.

Cooperation and the Evolution of Multicellularity. www.kitp.ucsb.edu/activities/dbdetails?acro=multicell13. A Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics workshop at the University of California, Santa Barbara from January to March, 2013. Coordinators are David Bensimon, Cassandra Extavour, Greg Huber, and Richard Michod. We enter as an example of the nascent mainstream admission, after decades, that such relational reciprocities are equally real and prevalent amongst creaturely assemblies from microbes to hominins, and serve to propel life toward viable multiples. See also herein a companion week study of Major Transitions.

This program will bring together theorists and experimentalists to explore the mystery of how and why single cells subsumed their fitness in favor of multicellular collectives and, further, how and why groups of cells evolved into multicellular individuals. A variety of theoretical and experimental approaches will be represented during the program, many revolving around the central notion of cooperation. Cooperation occurs throughout the biological world, and strikingly similar patterns of cooperative organization appear across the hierarchies of biological structures: Genes organize into genomes, cells into multicellular organisms, organisms into institutions and societies, and species into ecologies. While deep analogies between mechanisms at one such level of organization and mechanisms at another level suggest themselves, general organizing principles have often been greeted with controversy.

There are signs that the study of cooperation and its evolution is entering a new period, as theoretical advances meet with advances in molecular biology, genomics and cell biology, allowing greater access to the deepest levels of the underlying machinery acted on by natural selection. The new tools and technologies available to observe and manipulate genes, cells, microorganisms and collectives have resulted in new experimentally tractable systems and new data to probe classical ideas of fitness, the structure of communities, and the evolution of cooperation. We have organized a program where we hope the interplay of theory and experiment can provide the foundation for new collaborative work in this field.

ICREA Conference on the Evolution of Multicellularity. www.multicellularity2013.com/index. ICREA = Institucio Catalana de Recefica I Estudis Avancats. An international meeting sponsored by this Spanish research institute to be held in Barcelona, September 30 – October 1, 2013. Its organizers are Aurora Nedelcu, Ricard Sole, and Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo. Notable speakers in regard include Richard Michod, Douglas Erwin, Stuart Newman, and Maja Adamska.

The transition to multicellular life represents one of the most important events in the history of life. Yet, despite its significance, little is known about the mechanisms involved in this transition. In recent years, emerging data from various fields are providing new insights into this major evolutionary transition. With advances in theoretical, molecular/cell biology and genomics approaches, there is a clear need for further conversation and collaborative efforts between experimentalists and theoreticians.

The ICREA Conference on the Evolution of Multicellularity will bring together researchers with diverse backgrounds with the goal of stimulating and fostering inter-disciplinary discussion and collaborations. The talks will be
organized around six mini-symposia encompassing the major topics and approaches related to the evolution of multicellularity. The six symposia
are: 1) Origins and mechanisms; 2) Development and Gene regulation; 3) Genomics approaches and insights; 4) Theoretical approaches; 5) Social
Evolution; 6) Computational and synthetic approaches.

Self-organization in Biology-Freiburg Spemann-Mangold Centennial Symposium.. cibss.uni-freiburg.de/news-and-events/event/event-details/100y-spemann-mangold. This is an advance notice in October 2023 of a centennial celebration to be held on September 16-19, 2024 at the University of Freiburg, Germany. In regard to our Natural Genesis website, we can cite a 21st century revolutionary progression from no presence or recognition at all of any intrinsic, vivifying dynamics. Into these 2020s, as so many citations now report, such a formative force seems to be in effect from life’s origin to ourselves, along with quantum and astro phases.

Self-Organization in Biology: Freiburg Spemann-Mangold Centennial Symposium celebrates 100 years of scientific advances rooted in Hilde Mangold’s and Hans Spemann’s discovery of the gastrula organizer in vertebrate development in 1924. It builds a bridge to today’s molecular and cellular understanding self-organization in developing systems, including gastrulation, stem cell organoids, morphogen gradients, invertebrate systems, Evo-Devo, and emerging fields deriving from the discovery of embryonic induction.

The Origins and Consequences of Multicellularity. Google title and keywords.. Google title and keywords.. A home site for this 2014 Altenberg Workshop in Theoretical Biology organized by Karl Niklas and Stuart Newman. Speakers included Andrew Knoll, Manfred Laubicher, Alan Love and Kunihiko Kaneko. As usual a full set of Abstracts are here,

Multicellularity has evolved independently in ten different lineages, each of which had a unicellular ancestral condition. Its emergence involved physiological mechanisms resulting in cell-to-cell adhesion and sustained inter-cellular communication among adjoining cells. A comparative approach among extant lineages shows that these two requirements have been achieved among plant, animal, and fungal groups. In addition, the evolutionary transition from the unicellular to the multicellular condition is a major change in individuality since a new kind of organism emerges from the interactions and cooperation among subunits (cells).

Arias Del Angel, Juan, et al. Interplay of Mesoscale Physics and Agent-like Behaviors in the Parallel Evolution of Aggregative Multicellularity. BMC EvoDevo. 11:21, 2020. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, New York Medical College, Centre for Human Genetics, Bengaluru, India including Stuart Newman gather recent empirical evidence and theoretical reason as to how this major transition persistently occurred, and what might be the deeper dynamics that drove it to do so.

The emergence of multicellular organisms exhibiting cell differentiation, spatial patterning and morphogenesis has been recognized as one of the major transitions in evolution. Depending on the criteria applied, multicellularity evolved on anywhere between 10 and 25 independent occasions, which enabled an extraordinary increase in the complexity of living systems; the study of the developmental mechanisms and selective forces leading to their emergence, maintenance, and variation is an active research area. In broad terms, multicellular organisms can be classified either as aggregative (“coming together”) or zygotic (“staying together”), according to the mechanism by which multicellularity arises.

An important implication of the perspective we have presented here is that physics-based and agent-based approaches to understanding development are not simply alternative modeling or computational strategies, but represent realities of complex biological systems that are represented to various extents in different organismal lineages. Thus, the material nature of multicellular systems and the inherent structural motifs entailed by the relevant physics introduces a predictability to morphological evolution. (14)

Arnellos, Argyris, et al. Organizational Requirements for Multicellular Autonomy: Insights from a Comparative Case Study. Biology and Philosophy. 29/6, 2014. With Alvaro Moreno and Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo, (search) University of the Basque Country philosophers of science continue to explain the occasions of life and cellular beings. By 2014, life’s evolution can be broadly sketched as a nested, repetitive emergence of whole entities. The paper proposes that the process is carried out by autonomous, proactive candidates who “regulate their own development” as they become “a self-determining collective entity.” In a deep, inherent way living systems are seen to make themselves via a “self-constructed developmental logic.” This scenario then accords with the major transitions scale as distinguished by this appropriate information venue. As a follow-up paper, see Multicellular Agency{ An Organizational View in the same journal, online March 2015.

In this paper we explore the organizational conditions underlying the emergence of organisms at the multicellular level. More specifically, we shall propose a general theoretical scheme according to which a multicellular organism is an ensemble of cells that effectively regulates its own development through collective (meta-cellular) mechanisms of control of cell differentiation and cell division processes. This theoretical result derives from the detailed study of the ontogenetic development of three multicellular systems (Nostoc punctiforme, Volvox carteri and Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and, in particular, of their corresponding cell-to-cell signaling networks.

The case study supports our claim that a specific type of functional integration among the cells of a multicellular ensemble (namely, a regulatory control system consisting in several inter-cellular mechanisms that modulate epigenesis and whose operation gets decoupled from the intra-cellular metabolic machinery), is required for it to qualify as a proper organism. Finally, we argue why a multicellular system exhibiting this type of functionally differentiated and integrated developmental organization becomes a self-determining collective entity and, therefore, should be considered as a second-order autonomous system. (Abstract)

Since the very beginning of life on Earth, biological entities have assembled into groups, bringing forth several types of relatively stable associations. Unicellular organisms from temporary microbial aggregates, mats, biofilms, prokaryotic and eukaryotic multicellular (MC) ensembles; eukaryotic cells result from the symbiotic associations of prokaryotic cells; colonial groupings or more integrated societies consist of MC systems. All these associations, apart from generating specific mechanisms to foster interactions and the maintenance of relatively cohesive forms of collective organization, also tend to occupy new niches and to increase the possibilities of survival of the constituting units and of the associations themselves, as a whole, so they seem to operate as organisms. (852)

Asllani, Malbor, et al. A Universal Route to Pattern Formation in Multicellular Systems. European Physical Journal B. 93/7, 2020. When this resource website was first posted around 2004, the scientific perception of pervasive self-assembled topologies was quite fragmentary. A decade and a half later, University of Limerick, University of Namur, Belgium, University of Firenze, and Oxford University (Philip Maini) biomathematicians (as many others) can assume and attest to an intrinsic computational propensity of material and organic patternings in similar evidence everywhere, as in this case for life’s cellular activities.

A general framework for the generation of long wavelength patterns in multi-cellular (discrete) systems is proposed, which extends beyond conventional reaction-diffusion (continuum) paradigms. The standard partial differential equations of reaction-diffusion framework can be considered as a mean-field like ansatz which corresponds, in the biological setting, to sending to zero the size (or volume) of each individual cell. By relaxing this approximation and, provided a directionality in the flux is allowed for, we demonstrate here that instability leading to spatial pattern formation can always develop if the (discrete) system is large enough, namely, composed of sufficiently many cells, the units of spatial patchiness. The macroscopic patterns that follow the onset of the instability are robust and show oscillatory or steady state behavior. (Abstract)

Self-organization, the ability of a system of microscopically interacting entities to shape macroscopically ordered structures, is ubiquitous in Nature. Spatio-temporal patterns are observed in a plethora of applications, encompassing different fields and scales. Examples of emerging patterns are the spots and stripes on the coat or skin of animals, the spatial distribution of vegetation in arid areas, the organization of colonies of insects in host-parasitoid systems and the architecture of large complex ecosystems. In the early 1950s, Alan Turing laid down the mathematical basis of pattern formation, the discipline that aims at explaining the richness and diversity of forms displayed in Nature. Turing’s idea paved the way for a whole field of investigation and fertilized a cross-disciplinary perspective to yield a universally accepted paradigm of self-organization. (1)

Bejan, Adrian and James Marden. Constructing Animal Locomotion from New Thermodynamic Theory. American Scientist. July/August, 2006. Running, flying, and swimming are based on a common physics by which to optimally utilize the flow of energy. This “constructural theory” is then said to channel evolution into similar pathways and forms, rather than fall to sheer contingency.

Bernardes, Joana, et al. The Evolution of Convex Trade-off Enables the Transition Towards Multicellularity. Nature Communications. 12/4222, 2021. A six person team from MPI Evolutionary Biology, Alfred Wegener Institute, and University of Konstanz add further experimental quantifications of how life’s cellular phases proceeded to beneficially interact on the way to animal organisms.

The evolutionary transition towards multicellular life often involves growth in groups of undifferentiated cells followed by differentiation into soma and germ-like cells. Theory predicts that germ soma differentiation is facilitated by a convex trade-off between survival and reproduction. However, this has never been tested and these transitions remain poorly understood. Here, we study the evolution of cell groups in ten isogenic lines of unicellular green algae with exposure to a rotifer predator. We confirm that growth in cell groups is heritable and characterized by a convex curve between reproduction and survival. Overall, we show that just 500 generations of predator selection were sufficient to lead to such a trade-off and incorporate evolved changes into the prey genome. (Abstract)

Bingham, Emma and William Ratcliff. A nonadaptive explanation for macroevolutionary patterns in the evolution of complex multicellularity. PNAS. 121/7, 2024. Georgia Tech biologists (search WR) contribute additional insights into the many insistent occasions when all manner of animalia came together into reciprocal groupings as life arose on its way.

Complex multicellular organisms have evolved five times independently in eukaryotes, but never within prokaryotes. Here, we propose an alternative for this broad macroevolutionary pattern. By binning cells into groups with finite genetic bottlenecks between generations, multicellularity reduces the effective size of cellular populations, increasing the role of genetic drift in evolutionary change. While both prokaryotes and eukaryotes experience this phenomenon, they have opposite responses to drift: eukaryotes tend to undergo genomic expansion, while prokaryotes face genomic erosion. (Abstract)

Multiicellularity has evolved over 50 times independently, arising at least 3 billion years ago in cyanobacteria. Most of these lineages have remained relatively simple, with “complex multicellularity” arising only five times (animals, plants, fungi, brown, and red algae). Complex multicellularity is a term of art used to capture an important axis of multicellular organismality: the evolution of large, often relatively long-lived, multicellular organisms composed of many cell types (2).

Bittleston, Leonora, et al. Convergence in Multispecies Interactions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Online January, 2016. Harvard University biologists show how life’s avail and reuse of the same basic pattern and process over and over in kind can be similarly seen for dynamic, behavioral activities across the fauna and flora bioregions. Once again, from another take, Earth evolution indeed appears to have an innate, constrained form, development, and course.

The concepts of convergent evolution and community convergence highlight how selective pressures can shape unrelated organisms or communities in similar ways. We propose a related concept, convergent interactions, to describe the independent evolution of multispecies interactions with similar physiological or ecological functions. A focus on convergent interactions clarifies how natural selection repeatedly favors particular kinds of associations among species. Characterizing convergent interactions in a comparative context is likely to facilitate prediction of the ecological roles of organisms (including microbes) in multispecies interactions and selective pressures acting in poorly understood or newly discovered multispecies systems. We illustrate the concept of convergent interactions with examples: vertebrates and their gut bacteria; ectomycorrhizae; insect–fungal–bacterial interactions; pitcher-plant food webs; and ants and ant–plants. (Abstract)

We define convergent interactions as the independent emergence of multispecies interactions with similar physiological or ecological functions. We define ecological function as the role a species plays in an interaction, community, or ecosystem, for example, the excretion of essential amino acids by an endosymbiotic bacterium or the decomposition of dead leaves by an insect detritivore. Our definition of convergent interactions is purposefully broad and can be used to generate hypotheses about many kinds of ecological relationships. (1)

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