Comparative and evolutionary systems biology: examples from an endless frontier

Malcolm Gordon.

Much of contemporary systems biology is directed toward exploring the rich connections between molecular and cell biology, epigenetics and the many fields of omics. My emphasis will be on aspects of the comparably rich connections that can be developed between systems approaches broadly defined and comparative organismic and evolutionary biology. My personal research interests in these latter areas currently emphasize biophysical, biomechanical and bioengineering questions involving locomotion in some evolutionarily highly derived bony fishes.

Combining current understanding of evolutionary processes with relatively simple robotic models makes it possible, for the first time, to analytically evaluate major functional trade-offs in the design and operation of morphologically convergent (homoplastic) fishes belonging to distantly related clades. We can perform experiments that nature cannot. I illustrate this with recent results of a study of wake dynamics in two types of mackerel, a scombrid true mackerel and a carangid jack mackerel. An unexpected side development from earlier stages of this work has been an influence on aspects of automobile design.

About Malcolm Gordon

Malcolm Gordon is a faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His primary research subjects are bony fishes and amphibians (anurans). His topical research interests have centered on functional adaptations of animals to challenging environmental conditions in their natural habitats. Early work emphasized biochemistry and physiology; current activities are biophysical and biomechanical. He is a founding faculty member for the UCLA doctoral program in Environmental Science and Engineering and for the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.