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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe how the present-day theory of evolution was developed
  • Define adaptation
  • Explain convergent and divergent evolution
  • Describe homologous and vestigial structures
  • Discuss misconceptions about the theory of evolution

Evolution by natural selection describes a mechanism for how species change over time. That species change had been suggested and debated well before Darwin began to explore this idea. The view that species were static and unchanging was grounded in the writings of Plato, yet there were also ancient Greeks who expressed evolutionary ideas. In the eighteenth century, ideas about the evolution of animals were reintroduced by the naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon who observed that various geographic regions have different plant and animal populations, even when the environments are similar. It was also accepted that there were extinct species.

During this time, James Hutton, a Scottish naturalist, proposed that geological change occurred gradually by the accumulation of small changes from processes operating like they are today over long periods of time. This contrasted with the predominant view that the geology of the planet was a consequence of catastrophic events occurring during a relatively brief past. Hutton’s view was popularized in the nineteenth century by the geologist Charles Lyell who became a friend to Darwin. Lyell’s ideas were influential on Darwin’s thinking: Lyell’s notion of the greater age of Earth gave more time for gradual change in species, and the process of change provided an analogy for gradual change in species. In the early nineteenth century, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck published a book that detailed a mechanism for evolutionary change. This mechanism is now referred to as an inheritance of acquired characteristics by which modifications in an individual are caused by its environment, or the use or disuse of a structure during its lifetime, could be inherited by its offspring and thus bring about change in a species. While this mechanism for evolutionary change was discredited, Lamarck’s ideas were an important influence on evolutionary thought.

Charles darwin and natural selection

In the mid-nineteenth century, the actual mechanism for evolution was independently conceived of and described by two naturalists: Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Importantly, each naturalist spent time exploring the natural world on expeditions to the tropics. From 1831 to 1836, Darwin traveled around the world on H.M.S. Beagle , including stops in South America, Australia, and the southern tip of Africa. Wallace traveled to Brazil to collect insects in the Amazon rainforest from 1848 to 1852 and to the Malay Archipelago from 1854 to 1862. Darwin’s journey, like Wallace’s later journeys to the Malay Archipelago, included stops at several island chains, the last being the Galápagos Islands west of Ecuador. On these islands, Darwin observed species of organisms on different islands that were clearly similar, yet had distinct differences. For example, the ground finches inhabiting the Galápagos Islands comprised several species with a unique beak shape ( [link] ). The species on the islands had a graded series of beak sizes and shapes with very small differences between the most similar. He observed that these finches closely resembled another finch species on the mainland of South America. Darwin imagined that the island species might be species modified from one of the original mainland species. Upon further study, he realized that the varied beaks of each finch helped the birds acquire a specific type of food. For example, seed-eating finches had stronger, thicker beaks for breaking seeds, and insect-eating finches had spear-like beaks for stabbing their prey.

Questions & Answers

what is meant by th word photosynthesis
MARTHA Reply
what is biology
stallon Reply
is the study living things
Zhayma
and non living things
Zhayma
what is water circle?
Faith Reply
please i asks whether this biology is for university
Sky Reply
for secondary
stallon
Copulation means coming together of male and female in the present of sexual Intercourse.
LEKAN Reply
what are the adaptive features of nervous system
Ridhwan
Please what is ovulation
Adusei Reply
What is cell division?
Adusei
What is copulation?
Adusei
bhaiya didi Gate mat
qaisar
bajali ji ka matlab Aur Payal Chaudhary ka matlab
qaisar
please tell me adaptive features of nervous system
Ridhwan
what is a metaborism
Beatrice Reply
this is a specialized part of the cell eg Nucleus
David Reply
what are adaptive features of nervous system
Ridhwan
what are the organelles?
Faith Reply
what is reproduction
mana Reply
reproduction is the process by which living organisms give rise to young ones of their own kind
Miriam
What is evolution
Wengelawit
the production of new forms of life over time as documented in the fossil record.
mana
hmm
Marvin
give two parasites where secondary host is water snail?
Kevin Reply
what is treats
Raih Reply
what are the organelles in cell that involves in protein sythenis
Rita Reply
what is a melanin?
Judith Reply
what is telophase
Elphas
melanin in that black color we posse in our skins
Marvin
Why do parasites take on a parasitic life?
Asadullah Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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