Recent advances in molecular biology and computation have enabled evolutionary biologists to develop models that explicitly capture molecular structure. By including complex and realistic maps from genotypes to phenotypes, such models are yielding important new insights into evolutionary processes. In particular, computer simulations of evolving RNA structure have inspired a new conceptual framework for thinking about patterns of mutational connectivity and general theories about the nature of evolutionary transitions, the evolutionary ascent of nonoptimal phenotypes, and the origins of mutational robustness and modular structures. Here, we describe this class of RNA models and review the major conceptual contributions they have made to evolutionary biology.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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