Evolutionary systems biology: What it is and why it matters



Evolutionary systems biology (ESB) is a rapidly growing integrative approach that has the core aim of generating mechanistic and evolutionary understanding of genotype-phenotype relationships at multiple levels. ESB's more specific objectives include extending knowledge gained from model organisms to non-model organisms, predicting the effects of mutations, and defining the core network structures and dynamics that have evolved to cause particular intracellular and intercellular responses. By combining mathematical, molecular, and cellular approaches to evolution, ESB adds new insights and methods to the modern evolutionary synthesis, and offers ways in which to enhance its explanatory and predictive capacities. This combination of prediction and explanation marks ESB out as a research manifesto that goes further than its two contributing fields. Here, we summarize ESB via an analysis of characteristic research examples and exploratory questions, while also making a case for why these integrative efforts are worth pursuing.