Densely-connected networks are prominent among natural systems, exhibiting structural characteristics often optimized for biological function. To reveal such features in highly-connected networks, we introduce a new network characterization determined by a decomposition of network-connectivity into low-rank and sparse components. Based on these components, we discover a new class of networks we define as amalgamated networks, which exhibit large functional groups and dense connectivity. Analyzing recent experimental findings on cerebral cortex, food-web, and gene regulatory networks, we establish the unique importance of amalgamated networks in fostering biologically advantageous properties, including rapid communication among nodes, structural stability under attacks, and separation of network activity into distinct functional modules. We further observe that our network characterization is scalable with network size and connectivity, thereby identifying robust features significant to diverse physical systems, which are typically undetectable by conventional characterizations of connectivity. We expect that studying the amalgamation properties of biological networks may offer new insights into understanding their structure-function relationships.
ASJC Scopus subject areas