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Researchers: “profound yet intuitive: Every species has evolved backup plans”

Species evolve ways to back up life’s machinery
artist’s conception of the interactome/Shuoshu, iStock

To study this “interactome,” researchers collecting data on 9 million protein interactions among species:

The scientists studied 1,840 species – from bacteria to primates – to understand how evolution built life forms that could survive in the face of natural adversities. What they discovered was profound yet intuitive: Every species has evolved backup plans that allow its protein machinery to find bypasses and workarounds when nature tries to gum up the works. No previous study has ever surveyed such a broad swath of species to find a survival strategy common to all life: Develop a versatile and robust molecular machinery.

“Across our entire sample, we find that the resilience of a species is strongly correlated with having protein networks that are robust to failure and can interact in multiple ways to preserve life,” said Stanford computer scientist Jure Leskovec, senior author of the paper that appears today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Evolutionary biologist Marcus Feldman, a co-author on the paper, said this is the most ambitious effort yet to understand what scientists call the interactome – the sum total of all the protein interactions for each species, just as genome describes the sum total of a species’ DNA. “We’re looking at the mechanism of evolution on an unprecedented scale, using the tools of data science to study the structure of the protein networks that make life possible,” Feldman said. Tom Abate, “Species evolve ways to back up life’s machinery” at Phys.org

And it all just happened, due to natural selection acting on random mutations (Darwinism), right? Look around you and you will see rocks slowly evolving into horses, using the same randomness…

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PeterA, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is NOT "brainstorming". You start with a Functional Specification for the System and "decompose" the higher level functions ("transmit and receive radio signals") into subfunctions for subsystems (e.g., the Power Supply "supplies power"). You then GUESS (normally from field experience) how the system can fail and assign a REQUIRED Mean Time Between Failures to the components to use as a Shopping List (find me a 120 volt, 5 amp, direct current power supply with a 10,000 hour MBTF). You can then "trade" MTBFs with the subsystems as long as the calculated system meets the specified system MBTF. Sometimes a component also CAN do things that are irrelevant to the system (um, it includes a "FAIL" warning light, but the component will be sealed inside a cabinet). So, I went to Spares Selection meetings where the engineers were SUPPOSED to have already finished all the MTBF studies. But when I would point out that the system was only required to operate 1,000 hours per year and the advertised MTBF was 10,000 hours, so I wasn't recommending ANY spares at the operating site, the Engineers would routine say crap like, "Oh, well, the MTBF is crap, so we need at least 2 or 3 spares for every installation." (based on "gut feel" "just to be safe") A war story, my mom came and stayed with me for a few months, and one evening after dinner she saw me typing away on my genuine IBM PC-1 with a green-black monitor. So she says quite innocently, "Is that homework for a class?" And without thinking I replied, "No, I'm trying to spend 150 million dollars." To which she replies, "Oh, that's nice." And I stop and turn away from the PC to clarify: "I'm trying to SPEND 150 million REAL dollars." And she walked away confused. So I spent decades crunching numbers that NOBODY cared about, methodologies be damned. Ya make a wild guess, add 10%, get somebody in contracts or accounting to accept it, and then wait and see how things work out. Then you throw away the spare you never used (because the MTBF was actually MUCH higher than advertised) and beg for more money to buy spares for the crap that has an actual MTBF of 100 hours. vmahuna
Vmahuna, In those brainstorming meetings did you apply RV+NS Principles to reach the solution? :) PeterA
There are surely a dozen reasons why these "back up plans" don't make sense from an Evolutionary point of view, but they are sure signs of Irreducible Complexity. That is, just my guess, but wouldn't any half-baked back-up system ENSURE DESTRUCTION? I mean, wouldn't any intermediate system ATTACK cell processes that WORK? Just sayin'... I would point out that I spent MANY years attending meetings about Failure Modes and Analysis for DoD systems. And the FIRST thing you do is describe, in GREAT detail, what the system is REQUIRED to do in normal operation. And THEN you start listing all of the ways in which the proposed design would AUTOMATICALLY ("naturally") "fail over" into one of the alternate modes of operation. But you do NOT get an Auxiliary Generator just by Chance. vmahuna
Es58, The department of quality assurance handles that kind of issue. :) PeterA
When do they get the ability to do the testing during development to make sure the backup plans work? es58

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