The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts: Large-Scale Phenomena Arising From Small-Scale Biophysical Processes

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Integrative And Comparative Biology


The symposium “Large-scale biological phenomena arising from small-scale biophysical processes” at the SICB 2023 Annual General Meeting focused on the cross-disciplinary exploration of emergent phenomena in biology. Interactions between cells or organisms at small scales within a system can govern patterns occurring at larger scales in space, time, or biological complexity. This theme recurs in many sub-disciplines of biology, including cell and developmental biology, evolution, and ecology. This symposium, and the associated special issue introduced here, showcases a wide range of cross-disciplinary collaborations among biologists, physicists, and engineers. Technological advancements in microscopy and microfluidics, as well as complementary advances in mathematical modeling and associated theory demonstrate the timeliness of this issue. This introduction seeks to provide useful background information to place the studies within this issue in a broader biophysical context and highlight similarities in ideas and approaches across systems and sub-disciplines. We hope to demonstrate that cross-disciplinary research linking small-scale biophysics to larger-scale emergent phenomena can help us understand problems ranging from single-cell behaviors to tissue formation and function, evolution of form, and the dynamics of communities.

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