Pedro Márquez-Zacarías

In biology, hierarchies are everywhere, from Linnaean taxonomy — the system we use to classify living things — to the social organization within a pod of gorillas. Biological hierarchies are often explained by the Major Evolutionary Transitions (MET) framework, which holds that evolutionary processes gave rise to life’s hierarchies. 

But this framework has some missing pieces, Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Pedro Márquez-Zacarías suggests. One is its lack of a formal notion of biological autonomy — an idea central to our understanding of living systems. Another is understanding the role of life cycles in how hierarchies persist across generations. 

At SFI, Márquez-Zacarías will examine these shortcomings by exploring two key questions through the lens of multicellular evolution: How do organisms acquire autonomy? And what are the elemental processes of a given life cycle? 

Márquez-Zacarías, an evolutionary biologist, also plans to study an entirely different evolutionary topic: language. He will explore why the Purépecha language, which is spoken in his hometown of Urapicho, México, is a “language isolate,” meaning it has no evolutionary relationship to any other language.

Márquez-Zacarías holds a Ph.D. in quantitative biosciences from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Arriving Oct., 2022., supported by the Omidyar Network