Evolution is a matter of information processing. How to formalize this intuition and rationalize the diversity of transmission mechanisms, from Lamarckism to sex?

The value of information in varying environments

Following theoretical models of financial investment, the value of the information that individuals in a biological population either inherit from their parents or acquire from their environment can be quantified in terms of growth rates. We have reviewed and extended this formalism, highlighting the differences between finance and biology and the analogies with stochastic thermodynamics.


Rationalizing the diversity of heredity mechanisms

Heredity is a necessary condition for evolution by natural selection which is often treated as a given in models of evolutionary dynamics. But heredity is itself subjet to evolution and takes many different forms, in addition to the vertical inheritance of DNA sequences. We have developed a mathematical framework that helps rationalize this diversity of mechanisms, and applied it to understand when Lamarckism can be adaptive, and why immune response mechanisms are so diverse.


Why two sexes?

Analyzing sexual reproduction through the lens of information led us to investigate how the presence of two sexes can be adaptive despite the “two-fold cost of males” – the observation that producing males reduces population growth by a factor of two per generation relative to hermaphroditic populations. We have shown that the presence of two sexes can be adaptive through sexual dimorphism in phenotypic plasticity but only if a conflict between levels of selection is resolved.