Nestedness across biological scales

Mauricio Cantor, Mathias M. Pires, Flavia M.D. Marquitti, Rafael L.G. Raimundo, Esther Sebastián-González, Patricia P. Coltri, S. Ivan Perez, Diego R. Barneche, Débora Y.C. Brandt, Kelly Nunes, Fábio G. Daura-Jorge, Sergio R Floeter, Paulo R. Guimarães

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Biological networks pervade nature. They describe systems throughout all levels of biological organization, from molecules regulating metabolism to species interactions that shape ecosystem dynamics. The network thinking revealed recurrent organizational patterns in complex biological systems, such as the formation of semi-independent groups of connected elements (modularity) and non-random distributions of interactions among elements. Other structural patterns, such as nestedness, have been primarily assessed in ecological networks formed by two non-overlapping sets of elements; information on its occurrence on other levels of organization is lacking. Nestedness occurs when interactions of less connected elements form proper subsets of the interactions of more connected elements. Only recently these properties began to be appreciated in one-mode networks (where all elements can interact) which describe a much wider variety of biological phenomena. Here, we compute nestedness in a diverse collection of one-mode networked systems from six different levels of biological organization depicting gene and protein interactions, complex phenotypes, animal societies, metapopulations, food webs and vertebrate metacommunities. Our findings suggest that nestedness emerge independently of interaction type or biological scale and reveal that disparate systems can share nested organization features characterized by inclusive subsets of interacting elements with decreasing connectedness. We primarily explore the implications of a nested structure for each of these studied systems, then theorize on how nested networks are assembled. We hypothesize that nestedness emerges across scales due to processes that, although system-dependent, may share a general.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0171691.
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

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