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[en] A random null model termed the blind-watchmaker network (BW) has been shown to reproduce the degree distribution found in metabolic networks. This might suggest that natural selection has had little influence on this particular network property. We investigate here the extent to which other structural network properties have evolved under selective pressure from the corresponding ones of the random null model: the clustering coefficient and the assortativity measures are chosen and it is found that these measures for the metabolic network structure are close enough to the BW network so as to fit inside its reachable random phase space. It is, furthermore, shown that the use of this null model indicates an evolutionary pressure towards low assortativity and that this pressure is stronger for larger networks. It is also shown that selecting for BW networks with low assortativity causes the BW degree distribution to deviate slightly from its power-law shape in the same way as the metabolic networks. This implies that an equilibrium model with fluctuating degree distribution is more suitable as a null model, when identifying selective pressures, than a randomized counterpart with fixed degree sequence, since the overall degree sequence itself can change under selective pressure on other global network properties.
[en] To what extent do the characteristic features of a chemical reaction network reflect its purpose and function? In general, one argues that correlations between specific features and specific functions are key to understanding a complex structure. However, specific features may sometimes be neutral and uncorrelated with any system-specific purpose, function or causal chain. Such neutral features are caused by chance and randomness. Here we compare two classes of chemical networks: one that has been subjected to biological evolution (the chemical reaction network of metabolism in living cells) and one that has not (the atmospheric planetary chemical reaction networks). Their degree distributions are shown to share the very same neutral system-independent features. The shape of the broad distributions is to a large extent controlled by a single parameter, the network size. From this perspective, there is little difference between atmospheric and metabolic networks; they are just different sizes of the same random assembling network. In other words, the shape of the degree distribution is a neutral characteristic feature and has no functional or evolutionary implications in itself; it is not a matter of life and death. (paper)