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Evolutionary Development as the Unfolding of an Intensive Complexity: a Complex Network Analysis of Crab Development

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Document pages: 45 pages

Abstract: Development has intrigued humanity since ancient times. Today, evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo) is primarily a branch of molecular biology in which development is explained by the interplay and interaction of gene regulatory networks (GRNs). However, it is not even clear that a GRN, no matter how complex, can be translated into a form. Therefore, the fundamental enigma of evolutionary development still remains: how a complex organism is formed from a single cell? This question unfolded the historical drama and the dialectical tension between preformation and epigenesis. In order to shed light on these issues, I studied the evolutionary development of crabs (infraorder Brachyura), as representative of the subphylum Crustacea, using network theory. The morphology of the different phases of brachyuran development were modeled as networks and their main characteristics analyzed. As one could expect, the parameters usually regarded as indicative of network complexity, such as modularity and hierarchy, increased during development. However, when more sophisticated complexity measures were tested, it was evidenced that whereas a group of complexity measures increased during development, another group decreased. This led to consider that two kinds of complexities were being measured. I called them intensive and extensive complexity. In view of these results, I propose that evolutionary development involves a passage from an intensive to an extensive complexity. In other words, evolutionary development can be interpreted as an unfolding of an intensive, preexistent complexity.

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