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Lecture 2

Lecture 2

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Published by: listopro on Jan 15, 2012
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Darwin’s Theory
On his return to England, Darwin began to pull together a great deal ofinformation from the voyage and other sources, notably a reading of ThomasRobert Malthus’ book On Population. He was able to arrive at a mechanism forall the changes that he had observed. He proposed that evolution has taken placethrough natural selection.Summary of Darwin’s theory:
1. Species are mutable.
Darwin’s observations on the Galapagos made itclear to him that species can alter over time, and can give rise to new species.This was part of Lamarck’s theory too, but Darwin realized as Lamarck did notthat it is the environment in which organisms find themselves that determineswhat kinds of organisms will survive there.
2. Natural selection can give rise to new adaptations and new species
.The principle of Malthus (see graph below) applies to natural populations.Because unchecked reproduction leads to exhaustion of resources, not allindividuals are able to survive and reproduce. The result is a
struggle forexistence
, leading to an increase in the probability that the
best
-
adapted
individuals will survive and reproduce. It is these individuals that are morelikely to pass their characteristics on to the next generation. This process is oneof
natural selection
, and it operates on the individuals of each generation.Darwin was led to this idea by the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus(1766-1834), who pointed out that because populations increase exponentiallywhile their resources increase at the most arithmetically, populations will alwaystend to outstrip their resources.
 
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020406080100120
      P     o     p     u      l     a      t      i     o     n
 e s  o u c  e s  (   e c  t   a e s  of   a gi   c  ul   t   u al   l   an d  )  
Time (years)
The contrast between the exponential growth of a human population (red)and the arithmetic growth of its resources (blue).
3. Natural and artificial selection are very similar but not identical
.Darwin realized that one of the most convincing demonstrations of the power ofselection comes from the
artificial selection
used by plant and animal breedersto produce rapid changes over short periods of time in a wide variety ofdomesticated breeds. He was particularly fascinated by pigeon breeding, andcarried out experiments of his own that convinced him of the remarkable andswift effects of artificial selection on these birds.

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