Non-equilibrium physics and evolution - Adaptation, extinction, and ecology: A Key Issues review

E. Kussell, M. Vucelja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evolutionary dynamics in nature constitute an immensely complex non-equilibrium process. We review the application of physical models of evolution, by focusing on adaptation, extinction, and ecology. In each case, we examine key concepts by working through examples. Adaptation is discussed in the context of bacterial evolution, with a view toward the relationship between growth rates, mutation rates, selection strength, and environmental changes. Extinction dynamics for an isolated population are reviewed, with emphasis on the relation between timescales of extinction, population size, and temporally correlated noise. Ecological models are discussed by focusing on the effect of spatial interspecies interactions on diversity. Connections between physical processes - such as diffusion, turbulence, and localization - and evolutionary phenomena are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102602
JournalReports on Progress in Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • biological physics
  • evolutionary dynamics
  • population extinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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