Sofja Kovalevskaja Research Group: Structure of Evolution

Matteo Smerlak (Email)

+49 (0) 341 - 9959 - 546

+49 (0) 341 - 9959 - 658

Inselstr. 22
04103 Leipzig

Research Interests

We are an interdisciplinary group working on various aspects of theoretical evolutionary dynamics. Topics of special interest include:

  • Fitness landscapes

    • How do the forces of selection, mutation and drift power the motion of populations in their fitness landscapes? Can this motion be predicted?
  • Evolution and phenotypic plasticity

    • Selection does not act on genes, but on plastic phenotypes expressed through development. These features are rarely accounted for in quantitative models of evolution. Can simple models elucidate the interaction between evolution, development and plasticity?
  • Growth across levels of organization

    • The basic natural process powering evolution is growth. We are interested in the patterns of growth across level of organizations, from cell replication to ecosystem production. Why do large animals or rich ecosystems produce less biomass than their size/density would suggest?
  • Evolution of cooperation

    • A longstanding puzzle in evolutionary theory is the evolution of cooperation: why do organisms and actors share resources when selfish behavior would provide a more immediate reward? What mechanisms allow cooperation to evolve?
  • RNA design

    • In addition to its role in gene expression, RNA can carry hereditary information and perform various catalytic functions. This makes it good candidate for proto-life — but how common are these catalytic functions in the space of all possible RNA sequences? Can we design artificial sequences with self-replicating activity?

Feel free to visit our external group page or consult our list of publications.

The group is generously funded by a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and a Young Investigator Award from the Human Frontier Science Program.

Group Members


30.03.2023, 01:40