Scientists have discovered that “pure math” is written into evolutionary genetics

Mathematics and nature have always been in close relationship, and the beauty of mathematical patterns has often been reflected in the natural world. Recently, a group of researchers discovered a surprising connection between number theory and genetics, shedding light on the mechanisms that govern the evolution of life at the molecular level. This discovery not only highlights the abstract relationships that exist in number theory, but also reveals deep mathematical structures in our natural world.

Number theory and its significance:

Number theory, one of the purest forms of mathematics, encompasses arithmetic functions such as multiplication, subtraction, division, and addition of integers. It studies the relationships between integers and their negative counterparts. A prime example of the presence of number theory in nature is the famous Fibonacci sequence, in which each number is the sum of the previous two. This sequence can be observed in various natural phenomena such as pineapples and sunflower seeds.

Mutations and genetic evolution:

A study by Oxford University mathematician Ard Louis and his team focused on mutations – genetic errors that occur over time and determine evolution. Some mutations can have significant consequences, causing disease or conferring unexpected benefits. However, there are also neutral mutations that have no noticeable effect on an organism’s appearance or traits. Such neutral mutations serve as indicators of ongoing evolution. As organisms gradually diverge from a common ancestor, mutations accumulate at a steady rate, establishing genetic links between species.

The importance of mutational stability:

Although mutations are a prerequisite for genetic diversity and evolution, organisms must have mutational resistance to maintain characteristic traits. Such resistance allows organisms to tolerate certain mutations while maintaining their phenotype. The concept of mutational resistance is not limited to species; it can also be observed in proteins within cells. Proteins can tolerate approximately two-thirds of random errors in their coding sequences, with 66% of mutations having no effect on their final form.

Exploring the limits of stability:

The researchers set out to determine the maximum level of mutational stability and whether there is a limit to this phenomenon. As an example of how a unique genetic sequence, or genotype, relates to a particular phenotype or trait, they looked at protein folding and small RNA structures. Proteins are encoded by short DNA sequences that define their constituent parts and ultimately form their structure. Similarly, RNA secondary structures play a critical role in protein synthesis. By studying these processes, researchers have sought to identify the degree of mutational stability.

Results and implications:

The study by Luis and his collaborators showed that biological systems have a surprisingly high degree of phenotypic stability, without which evolution would not be possible. However, the researchers were not certain that an absolute maximum level of resilience existed. By studying protein folding and RNA structures, they gained insight into the limits of mutational robustness and its role in genetic diversity.


The connection between number theory and genetics highlights the beauty and complexity of mathematical relationships in the natural world. This study provides valuable insights into the mechanisms of genetic evolution and the importance of mutational robustness in maintaining characteristic traits. By exploring the limits of resilience, scientists will be able to further understand the complex processes that shape life at the molecular level.

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