Diversity Generator Mechanisms Are Essential Components of Biological Systems: The Two Queen Hypothesis
Frontiers in Microbiology
Diversity is widely known to fuel adaptation and evolutionary processes and increase robustness at the population, species and ecosystem levels. The Neo-Darwinian paradigm proposes that the diversity of biological entities is the consequence of genetic changes arising spontaneously and randomly, without regard for their usefulness. However, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that the evolutionary process has shaped mechanisms, such as horizontal gene transfer mechanisms, meiosis and the
... ptive immune system, which has resulted in the regulated generation of diversity among populations. Though their origins are unrelated, these diversity generator (DG) mechanisms share common functional properties. They (i) contribute to the great unpredictability of the composition and/or behavior of biological systems, (ii) favor robustness and collectivism among populations and (iii) operate mainly by manipulating the systems that control the interaction of living beings with their environment. The definition proposed here for DGs is based on these properties and can be used to identify them according to function. Interestingly, prokaryotic DGs appear to be mainly reactive, as they generate diversity in response to environmental stress. They are involved in the widely described Red Queen/arms race/Cairnsian dynamic. The emergence of multicellular organisms harboring K selection traits (longer reproductive life cycle and smaller population size) has led to the acquisition of a new class of DGs that act anticipatively to stress pressures and generate a distinct dynamic called the "White Queen" here. The existence of DGs leads to the view of evolution as a more "intelligent" and Lamarckian-like process. Their repeated selection during evolution could be a neglected example of convergent evolution and suggests that some parts of the evolutionary process are tightly constrained by ecological factors, such as the population size, the generation time and the intensity of selective pressure. The ubiquity of DGs also suggests that regulated auto-generation of diversity is a fundamental property of life.