Connectivity and Catastrophe — Towards a General Theory of Evolution

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4 Author(s)

Here we show that connectivity and catastrophe play a key role in driving species evolution within a landscape. They also form a special case of a more general process, which occurs widely in natural and artificial systems. In this process, catastrophes cause a temporary phase change in the connectivity of a system. Different mechanisms (selection and variation) predominate in each phase. The system passes through the critical point without being poised there. The “chaotic edge” associated with the phase change may be an important source of variety in biological and other systems. In species evolution (and landscape ecology) the process is mediated by cataclysmic events, which fragment widely distributed species and trigger population explosions of new species. The proposed mechanism explains a number of biological and physical phenomena, as well as certain algorithms used for optimisation and evolutionary programming