Self-organization in Biological Systems

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Princeton University Press, 2003 - Science - 538 pages
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The synchronized flashing of fireflies at night. The spiraling patterns of an aggregating slime mold. The anastomosing network of army-ant trails. The coordinated movements of a school of fish. Researchers are finding in such patterns--phenomena that have fascinated naturalists for centuries--a fertile new approach to understanding biological systems: the study of self-organization. This book, a primer on self-organization in biological systems for students and other enthusiasts, introduces readers to the basic concepts and tools for studying self-organization and then examines numerous examples of self-organization in the natural world.


Self-organization refers to diverse pattern formation processes in the physical and biological world, from sand grains assembling into rippled dunes to cells combining to create highly structured tissues to individual insects working to create sophisticated societies. What these diverse systems hold in common is the proximate means by which they acquire order and structure. In self-organizing systems, pattern at the global level emerges solely from interactions among lower-level components. Remarkably, even very complex structures result from the iteration of surprisingly simple behaviors performed by individuals relying on only local information. This striking conclusion suggests important lines of inquiry: To what degree is environmental rather than individual complexity responsible for group complexity? To what extent have widely differing organisms adopted similar, convergent strategies of pattern formation? How, specifically, has natural selection determined the rules governing interactions within biological systems?


Broad in scope, thorough yet accessible, this book is a self-contained introduction to self-organization and complexity in biology--a field of study at the forefront of life sciences research.

 

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More about this book can be found in the personal website of Scott Camazine. This was one of the best books I have ever read. It is also useful for readers who are not necessarily familiar with biological topics.

Contents

Aims and Scope of the Book
2
Introduction to Biological SelfOrganization
5
What Is SelfOrganization?
7
How SelfOrganization Works
15
Characteristics of SelfOrganizing Systems
29
Alternatives to SelfOrganization
47
Why SelfOrganization?
63
Investigation of SelfOrganization
69
Trail Formation in Ants
217
The Swarm Raids of Army Ants
257
Colony Thermoregulation in Honey Bees
285
Comb Patterns in Honey Bee Colonies
309
Wall Building by Ants
341
Termite Mound Building
377
Construction Algorithms in Wasps
405
Dominance Hierarchies in Paper Wasps
443

Misconceptions about SelfOrganization
88
Case Studies
93
Pattern Formation in Slime Molds and Bacteria
95
Feeding Aggregations of Bark Beetles
121
Synchronized Flashing among Fireflies
143
Fish Schooling
167
Nectar Source Selection by Honey Bees
189
Conclusions
483
Lessons Speculations and the Future of SelfOrganization
485
Notes
495
References
497
Index
525
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About the author (2003)

Scott Camazine is the author of The Naturalist's Year and Velvet Mites and Silken Webs. Jean-Louis Deneubourg is Research Fellow at the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research and at the Centre for Non-Linear Phenomena and Complex Systems at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, where he is also Professor of Behavioral Ecology. Nigel R. Franks is Professor of Animal Behavior and Ecology at the University of Bristol and the coauthor of The Social Evolution of Ants (Princeton). James Sneyd is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Massey University, New Zealand and the coauthor of Mathematical Physiology. Guy Theraulaz is Research Fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research in Toulouse, France, and at Paul Sabatier University. Eric Bonabeau is Chief Scientist at EuroBios in Paris, France. Bonabeau and Theraulaz are coauthors of Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems.

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