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A Local Ecosystem

1. The distribution, diversity and numbers of plants and animals found in ecosystems are determined by biotic and
abiotic factors

Compare the abiotic characteristics of aquatic and terrestrial environments

Abiotic factors Aquatic Environments Terrestrial Environments

Viscosity: A measure of a HIGH VISCOSITY: Difficult for organisms to LOW VISCOSITY:
medium’s resistance to an object move through Easy for organisms to move through
moving through it
Buoyancy: The amount of support HIGH: Gives support to plants and animals. May LOW: Plants and animals need to be able to
experienced by an object help to maintain shape support themselves
Temperature Variation: Less variation in oceans, decreases with depth Temperatures vary more than in water. Daily
and seasonal variations may be great
Availability of: a) Depends on temperature, diffusion is slower. a) No shortage of gases. Availability decreases
a) Gases More gases available at lower temperatures. with altitude
b) Water Oxygen concentration decreases with depth b) Varies greatly from deserts to swamps.
c) Ions b) Not a problem. Osmotic differences of fresh c) Ions in soil are vital in plant growth
and salt water are important
c) most ions are readily available
Light penetration: Decreases with depth. Affects availability of Plenty of light available. Very important for
plants in water plant growth
Pressure variation: Pressure varies with depth. Increased depth Decreases with height above sea level.
has increased pressure, Few organisms live at
great depths

Identify the factors determining the distribution and abundance of a species in each environment

Distribution – Describes where the species is found

Abundance – Describes how many members of the species are found throughout the ecosystem.

Abiotic Factors Affecting Distribution and Abundance:

• Amount of light
• Rainfall
• Water (availability, salinity, pH and amount)
• Temperature
• Shelter/features that offer some sort of protection
• Soil characteristics – depth, nutrients, water holding ability etc
• Altitude and depth
• Topography and aspect

Biotic Factors Affecting Distribution and Abundance:

 Availability and abundance of food
 Number of competitors – these may be from the same species or other species with similar requirements
 Number of predators
 Number of mates available to ensure survival and reproduction
 Number and variety of disease causing organisms

Describe the roles of photosynthesis and respiration in ecosystems

• Photosynthesis produces oxygen which is essential for aerobic respiration
• Waste products of respiration are the raw materials for photosynthesis, which creates a cycle
• The flow of energy through an ecosystem starts with light energy from the sun. This is captured by
producers through the process of photosynthesis and used to make carbohydrates such as glucose using
carbon dioxide and water
• Respiration refers to the process in which glucose and oxygen are converted to carbon dioxide and water with
the release of energy
• Equation for respiration;
Glucose + Oxygen  Carbon Dioxide + Water + Energy
6O2 + C6H12O6  6CO2 + 6HO2 + Energy
• Equation for photosynthesis; is the opposite of respiration
Carbon Dioxide + Water  Glucose + Oxygen
6CO2 + 6H2O  C6H12O6 + 6O2

All living things need energy to survive. The flow of energy through an ecosystem starts with light energy from the sun.
This energy is captured by the producers (plants) through the process of photosynthesis. When the consumers eat the
plants, this energy is transferred. Respiration occurs in all cells to deliver small amounts of energy that can be used for
cellular processes. Energy does not cycle, it flows from producers through a chain of consumers. At each step energy is

Identify uses of energy by organisms

• Growth of cells
• Muscle contraction and movement
• Synthesis of complex molecules (lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, etc)
• Reproduction
• Maintenance of optimal body temperature for chemical reactions that occur in cells
• Repair of damaged cells and cell maintenance
• Maintaining body temperature
• Active transport of materials across cell membranes

Identify the general equation for aerobic cellular respiration and outline this as a summary of a chain of biochemical

Glucose + Oxygen  Carbon Dioxide + Water + Energy

Respiration is a series of chemical reactions which releases energy from complex carbohydrates. All living things
respire. The process does not occur in one step. It is a chemical reaction with about 50 different stages
Respiration - Process in which glucose and oxygen are converted to carbon dioxide and water, with the release of

Respiration can be broken down into 2 main stages

1. Break down of glucose into 2, 3-carbon molecules (releasing energy)
2. The break down of the 3-carbon molecules into a 1-carbon molecule and carbon dioxide (releasing energy)

Process and analyse information obtained from a variety of sampling studies to justify the use of different sampling
techniques to make population estimates when total counts cannot be performed

• A population is a group of similar organisms living in a given area as a time

• Populations can never be 100% accurately counted; this is because of the difficulty of describing in detail large
areas. Also it would be too time-consuming and damaging to the environment
• Sampling techniques make an estimate, which is roughly accurate of the population.

• Square or rectangular of a desired size used as a sampling unit
• Used if area is too large to count all organisms in time required
• Used to sample vegetation, slow moving animals, nests, burrows, soil fauna/characteristics
• Fast; allow for more detailed sampling
• Only good for slow-moving organisms

Estimated average density = total number of individuals counted__

No. of quadrats x area of each quadrat

Measuring Distribution:
• A transect is used
• Make a surface map sketch
Capture-Recapture Method
Total Population = No. of animals in 1st sample (all marked) x Total no. of animals in 2ndsample
No. of marked animals in second sample (recaptured)

2. Each local aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem is unique

Examine trends in population estimates for some plant and animal species within an ecosystem
• Populations of organisms do not remain constant within an ecosystem
• If the population of a species remains constant over a period of time it is stable
• If the population numbers increase dramatically this is referred to as population explosion
• If the population numbers may decline due to
• Stable populations may also fluctuate due to the cyclical nature of availability of food, water, temperatures
and reproduction rates

Outline factors that affect numbers in predator and prey populations in the area studied
• A predator is an organism that consumes another organism called the prey
• Predators can be herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous
• The numbers of predators and prey in an ecosystem depend on;
 Competition between predators for the same prey
 Diseases can affect both predator and prey
 Seasonal migration of predators or prey will affect populations
 Availability of prey food- less food, less prey, less food for predators

In a predator-prey relationship:
- Predators feed on prey
- As predators and prey increase, there are more prey for the predators hence,
- Number of prey decrease
- Causing number of predators to decrease due to lack of food, etc
- Since there aren’t as many predators anymore, number of prey increase again
- This causes predators to be more abundant once more, feeding on the large amount of prey and hence,
repeating the cycle.

It is detrimental for predators to be totally efficient when hunting their prey, as this would result in starvation.

Identify examples of allelopathy, parasitism, mutualism and commensalism in an ecosystem and the role of organisms in
each type of relationship

Relation between two species which both partners benefit
Eg – Tickbirds on elephants. The tickbirds can feed on the elephant while the elephant is groomed.

Relation where one species benefits, while the other is harmed. The beneficial species is called a parasite and the
harmed one is called a host.
Eg – Tapeworms in humans. The tapeworm feeds on the human’s food in the stomach and the person is harmed.

Relation in whom one species benefits while the other is neither harmed nor benefited.
Eg – Remora fish and a shark. The fish is the commensal and the shark is the host. The fish catches food scraps while
not bothering the shark.

Release of chemicals by one species which inhibits the growth for others. The chemicals are called allelo-chemicals.
Eg – Penicillin mould and bacteria. This mould produces a chemical preventing the growth of bacteria.

Relationship Roles in relationship Examples

Allelopathy The organism produces chemicals to discourage The Spinifex releases chemical substance to
organisms from competing for resources with it inhibit the growth of another
Parasitism Parasites slowly feed on their host harming them in some Tape worm lives in the intestines and eats the
way food which causes harm to the host, but doesn’t
cause death
Commensalism One species benefits, the other is neither helped of In rainforest, various ferns and orchids cling to
harmed tree trunks
Mutualism Both partners benefit from the association Remora has access to food while cleaning the

Describe the role of decomposers in ecosystems

• Organisms that consume dead plant and animal matter
• Break matter down to smaller pieces (detritus) which other animals can eat
• Help to complete the cycle of recycling nutrients and energy
Decomposers: Recycle nutrients back into the soil by breaking down dead plants and animals (usually include fungi and
Decomposers have the role of absorbing nutrients from dead organisms or waste materials and return organic matter
to the soil.

Explain trophic interactions between organisms in an ecosystem using food chains, food webs and pyramids of biomass
and energy

Trophic Interaction: Feeding relationship between organisms

Trophic Level: Feeding level of an organism

In a natural environment, energy from sunlight enters through the process of photosynthesis then flows onto other
organisms via food chains and webs. Photosynthesis can change the sun’s energy into chemical energy for other

Food Chains
A food chain illustrates what eats what. The arrow means ‘eaten by’ or more specifically, ‘gains energy from’. A food
chain always begins with a producer.

2 link food chain: Grass  rabbit  fox
3 link food chain: Grass  rabbit  a big bird  dingo
Trophic level 1 2 3 4….etc
Producer  1st order consumer  2nd order consumer etc

Each step along the food chain is a trophic level. Producers are the first trophic level, first order consumers occupy
the second trophic level, second order consumers occupy the third trophic level etc.

Food Webs
- Food webs are a flow chart showing the feeding patterns within a community.
- They show the flow of energy and matter through a community.
- A food web is made up of interconnecting food chains.
- Food webs can be used to explain and predict changes in the community.

Producer: an organism that makes its own food, autotrophs

Consumer: an organism that feeds on another living thing, heterotrophs
Herbivore: a consumer that only feeds on plant material
Carnivore: a consumer that only feeds on animals

Biomass Pyramid
• At every step of a food chain, energy is lost. It is lost as heat, and wastes. This is represented in an
energy pyramid, as the lowest level is the biggest, and the levels shrink as they go up
• At every step of the food chain, biomass (mass of organisms) is lost
• Biomass is a measure of the mass of all organisms at a particular trophic level. A biomass pyramid shows
the total weight (biomass) of organisms at each level for a particular habitat.
• Biomass is lost as undigested material and wastes
• This is also shown in a biomass pyramid
• Biomass pyramids and energy pyramids are usually similar in ecosystems

Energy Pyramid
Shows the amount of energy at each trophic level its is similar to a biomass pyramid because energy is transferred
through a community as food. The lower the organism on a food chain the more energy it has available to it.

3rd Order consumer

2nd Order consumer
1st Order consumer

Define the term adaptation and discuss the problems associated with inferring characteristics of organisms as
adaptations for living in a particular habitat

Adaptation – is a feature of an organism that makes it well suited to its environment and lifestyle. They are inherited
characteristics and are a result of natural selection.

Adaptations can be classified as:

- Structural
- Physiological
- Behavioural

An adaptation is any feature or characteristic which helps the organism survive in its environment.

Structural – A structural adaptation is its body shape, structure etc.

An example could be the size of leaves on plants. In a desert the leave size would be small because sunlight is
sufficient, whereas in a rainforest, there is little sunlight available so the leaf size must be larger in order to gather as
much sunlight as possible.

Physiological – A physiological adaptation is the organisms internal functioning of the metabolism. An example of this is
the birth of a red kangaroo. Once the Joey is born it crawls up the fur and begins sucking on the mother’s nipple. The
sucking stimulus prevents reoccurrence of the mother’s fertility cycle.

Behavioural – Behavioural adaptations are those concerned with how an organism behaves.
An example of this could be that the flowers of sunflowers will follow the movement of the sun across the sky during
the day while the leaves of the prayer plant ‘Maranta’ will close its leaves at night.

There are problems in inferring that all useful features have developed as adaptations to a particular environment. Eg.
The Ibis is a wetland bird that has become common in cities, eating out of drains and garbage bins, by looking at its
curved beak you could claim that it has become perfectly adapted to the urban environment, when in fact it is only a
recent arrival.

• Problems associated with inferring characteristics of organisms include:

o If you do not know the environment an organism lives in, then saying a characteristic is an
adaptation is just guesswork
o Sometimes, organisms gain features that are advantageous to its survival, but are a result
of the organism’s live experience. This is not an adaptation, as adaptations are always genetically

Identify some adaptations of living things to factors in their environment

• Some frogs burrow into soils to prevent drying out
• Physiological: fish produce mucus on the outside of their body to allow water to flow over it easily
• Behavioural: animals curl up into a ball when cold to decrease surface area
• Structural: stream line shape in fish allows them to swim easily through high viscous water
• long tongue- helps getting pray (structural)
• spikes- protection from predators (structural)
• long claws- helps digging (structural)

Identify and describe in detail adaptations of a plant and an animal from the local ecosystem

Mangroves Kangaroos
Anchored by complex root systems in the shifting Their well muscled hind legs are far larger than their forelegs,
environment of tidal mud flats because they need strong muscles for travelling at high speeds
‘Stilt roots’ lift the plant out of the salty water to Long tail used to balance and counter weight when bouncing. Also
allow for gaseous exchange. used as an extra limb when hopping.
Salt glands on their leaves which actively secretes Kangaroos live in arid areas. They can survive for long periods
salt, allows them to live in salt water without drinking water, so long as there are green plants. Reduce
water loss by sweating only during exercise.
Its leaves have thick cuticles and are hard and When hot many lick their limbs where blood vessels run close to
leathery, which prevents water loss and wilting in hot the skin and evaporate which has a cooling effect
The shape of plant and arrangement of leaves, Binocular vision. Mainly nocturnal, but may be active in early
ensure light is available, leaves are rich in morning and early evening
chlorophyll, and hence, are dark green.

Describe and explain the short-term and long-term consequences on the ecosystem of species competing for resources
• Short term;
 Availability of resources decreases
 The growth of the population may decrease
 If the population decreases the availability of food may increase

• Long Term;
 Degradation of the environment
 Diversity of organism will be reduced
 Extinction of species

Identify the impact of humans in the ecosystem studied

Humans have a detrimental impact on ecosystems…

• Destruction of ecosystems
• Pollution of ecosystems
• Land Clearing
• Extinction of other Species
• Land clearance and habitat destruction
• Erosion and loss of soil
• Salination and desertification
• Pollution of air, water and soil
• Fertilisers and pesticides
• Loss of biological diversity
• Exploitation and depletion of natural, non-renewable resources
• Production of poisonous materials
• Introduction of new/foreign species of flora and fauna

Choose equipment or resources and undertake a field study of a local terrestrial or aquatic ecosystem to identify data
sources and:
– measure abiotic variables in the ecosystem being studied using appropriate instruments and relate this data to
the distribution of organisms

Aim: To measure different abiotic factors in the Danebank environment

• thermometer • lux meter
• universal indicator • cotton wool
• methyl blue • beaker
• filter paper • chux
• soil thermometer • UI colour chart

1. Hold a thermometer in the air to measure air temp
2. Watch the flagpole to determine the wind direction
3. Use a beaufort scale to determine wind speed
4. Place the soil thermometer into the ground and turn on to measure soil temperature
5. Test for humidity by wetting a cotton bud and placing it on a thermometer then reading off the
humidity chart
6. Take some soil and mix it in water, place it through filtration paper and then test the filtered paper
with UI to measure pH
7. Turn on the lux meter and take off the cover to measure light intensity
8. Record results in a table

Conclusion: We were able to measure the different abiotic factors in the Danebank garden. Repeat for reliability, we
did this by comparing results in the class. To improve validity- make sure you are using accurate equipment. Some of
our results were not very valid like wind speed as the Beaufort scale is an objective way of measuring wind speed .
Wind direction also wasn’t very valid as we were mainly using our own judgement. To measure humidity some people
didn’t hold the wet bulb for long enough.

– estimate the size of a plant population and an animal population in the ecosystem using transects and/or random

Aim: To estimate the size of a plant population in an ecosystem by simulating the quadrat method

• Simulated environment
• Plastic square (2x2cm)
• Ruler

1. Examine the simulated environment, observe the key- each symbol indicates a particular species
2. Randomly drop the square from a height of about 15cm
3. Count the number of each species covered by the plastic square and record in a table of results
4. Repeat 10 times, dropping the plastic square randomly over the plant population
5. Work out the average for each species

Conclusion: The more times you repeat the quadrat method, the more reliable it is. This method isn’t very valid as it
relies on probability and is not a valid indication of the population of a plant or animal species in an ecosystem.

- collect, analyse and present data to describe the distribution of the plant and animal species whose
abundance has been estimated
Aim: To estimate the number of pieces of cardboard in a container by simulating capture-mark-recapture method of
estimating populations in an ecosystem

1. Cut the cardboard into a large number of pieces and put them into a container
2. Randomly pull out a handful of the pieces and count them (A)
3. Mark the first sample with a pen and return them to the container
4. Shake them through rally
5. Pull out a second sample and count them (B)
6. Count the number of marked cards in the second sample (C)
7. Calculate the population size using the formula and record it into a table
8. Repeat the procedure 5 times and calculate and average population size

Conclusion: This isn’t a very valid test as it is based on chance and probability, it is also just a simulation. The more
times it is repeated, the more reliable it becomes. One benefit of this model is it is quicker and easier, and it is
impossible to count the exact number of a population because of births and deaths and because they move and all may
not be able to be found. One limitation of this method of estimating the population size is its validity.

– describe two trophic interactions found between organisms in the area studied

– identify data sources and gather, present and analyse data by:
- Tabulation of data collected in the study
- Calculation of mean values with ranges
- graphing changes with time in the measured abiotic data
- evaluating variability in measurements made during scientific investigations

Process and analyse information and present a report of the investigation of an ecosystem in which the purpose is
introduced, the methods described and the results shown graphically and use available evidence to discuss their
1) Evidence for the rearrangement of crustal plates and continental drift indicates that Australia was
once part of an ancient super continent

• Identify and describe evidence that supports the assertion that Australia was once part of a landmass
called Gondwana, including:
− matching continental margins
Continents fit extremely well together like a jigsaw puzzle this match is clearer is the edges of the continental
shelves are used instead of the highly eroded coastline. Similarity of rock strata on matching continental
margins suggesting they were once joined.
− position of mid-ocean ridges
The youngest rocks were found at mid-ocean ridges, age increased with distance from the ridge. As new rock
forms at mid-ocean ridges and older rock is subducted at plate edges. Radiometric dating shows that MOR
support the theory of plate tectonics
− spreading zones between continental plates
Sea floor spreading occurs where two crustal plates move apart, hot molten material rises and cools and
becomes rigid. Subduction zones are where oceanic crust is pushed below the continental crust. As new rock
forms at MOR and older rock is subducted at plate boundaries the crust moves and carries the continent.

− fossils in common on Gondwanan continents, including Glossopteris and Gangamopteris flora, and
Glossopteris and Gangamopteris are fossil plants found in rocks of the same age in Africa, Australia, India,
South America, Antarctica and New Zealand. Alfred Wegener used Glossopteris as one piece of evidence to
support his theory of continental drift. Marsupial mammals are widespread in Australia. The opossum is only
found in North and South America, but the fossil record shows marsupials were present on all the continents
that we believe made up Gondwana. Fossil plants and animals found in Antarctica, including marsupials, are
the same as those found in Australia in rocks of the same age. Common fossils across different continents on
Gondwana infer that these continents were once joined together.

− similarities between present-day organisms on Gondwanan continents

Plants found on Gondwana continents e.g. Australian banksias, is not found in the northern hemisphere.
“Northofogus” (southern beech) is found in Aus, NZ, New Cal, PNG, and Sth America but NOT found in India
and South Africa  suggesting countries had separated before species evolved.

• discuss current research into the evolutionary relationships between extinct species, including
megafauna and extant Australian species
Megafauna: group of large animals that have become extinct worldwide over the last 50 000 years. ‘Extant’
means still in existence.

Two main theories have been put forward to explain this:

The first is climate change. Much extinction occurred at about the end of the last Ice Age. As the weather
warmed and conditions became drier, ecosystems changed and habitats were gained and lost. In Australia, the
climate changed from cold and dry to warm and dry, and water became scarce. Megafauna were not adapted
to these conditions and gradually died out.

The second theory is human expansion. The megafauna were big and slow and therefore vulnerable to hunting
—in particular to the arrival of skilled hunters. It is thought that the extinction of many of Australia’s
megafauna occurred at about the time that humans arrived on the continent for the first time.

The third theory is that the disappearance of most of Australia’s megafauna was a consequence of both
factors: initially climatic change but later also hunting by humans.
The “Wollemi pine” was thought to be extinct but was found growing in NSW its features as distinct to that of a
regular pine tree and its closely related to the species thought to have lived 50 MYA. Thus making it a “living
fossil”- therefore extant.

Solve problems to identify the positions of mid-ocean ridges and spreading zones that infer a moving Australian
Old technologies / developments / ideas New technologies / developments / ideas
This species immediately caused controversy firstly as to In 1826 mammary glands were found in a platypus specimen. In
whether it was actually a mammal. The new species had, 1884 a biologist found that it laid eggs.
mammal-like qualities like fur but it had no teats to feed live
young like other mammals.
It had been suggested that platypuses were unable to maintain a Studies using radio-transmitters which sense the temperature of
stable body temperature the body have been used to test this hypothesis. A study
monitoring platypuses temperature in Thredbo River showed there
was only slight variation around a body temperature of 32°C. In
spite of the temperature of the water being close to freezing this
animal had no trouble regulating its body temperature.
The male platypus has a hollow spur, on its back legs attached to Study of genetic relationships in a platypus population using
a gland which produces venom . This gland increases during the analysis of DNA (genetic fingerprinting) is investigating these
mating season and it was thought that the spurs were used by ideas. Molecular biology techniques have also been used to
males either to fight for access to breeding females or in investigate details of the genetic make-up of the platypus.
maintaining their territories.
2. The changes in Australian flora and fauna over millions of years have happened through

• Discuss examples of variation between members of a species

The small differences between organisms relating to the same species are called variations. These include
features such as colour, size or biochemical differences.

Examples of variations include:

• The white-naped honeyeater:
White naped Western form
Distribution East coast Aus West coast Aus
Size of bill Short bill Large bill
Colour of eye patch Orange/red White/green
Race Lunatus Chloropsis

The common heath: This flower shows remarkable variations in the colour of the flowers, from pure white, to
pink, to deep red. Factors affecting colour are mainly soil type.

• Identify the relationship between variation within a species and the chances of survival of species
when environmental change occurs
Variation in a species is very important in the changing environment for the survival of that species. IF there is
little variation then a change in environment there are now no individuals able to survive in the new
conditions. The species is threatened, could become extinct, because there is no opportunity for natural
selection to take place. The greater the variation the greater chance of survival.

• Identify and describe evidence of changing environments in Australia over millions of years
Time Environment Evidence
220-110 Cool, wet climate, shallow seas, semi-darkness in Club mosses found in Narabeen shale indicate Aust. Was
MYA winter covered in shallow water
45 MYA Became a separate continent with dry land but Aquatic fossils found in currently dry areas
with great interior lakes
20 MYA Isolated and drifting north, climate grew warmer Fossilized tree rings support climatic changes
but was still wet.
100 000 YA Land bridges between Aus. PNG & Tas. Megafauna fossils
10 000 YA Fluctuating sea levels and temperatures Human arrival (via land bridge)
5 000 YA Interior becoming arid and water scarce Open forest, woodland and heath habitat show
adaptations to dry conditions

• Identify areas within Australia that experience significant variations in temperature and water
• Temperature variation in Australian inland deserts and grasslands can be very great. In the day the
temperature may be over 40º, but fall very quickly at night
• In winter, temperatures can go from 20º to below freezing
• Most bodies of water in Australia are unreliable; they fluctuate greatly
• Temperature and water variation has acted as a major selective pressure on organisms
o This determines native vegetation of an area

• Identify changes in the distribution of Australian species, as rainforests contracted and sclerophyll
communities and grasslands spread, as indicated by fossil evidence

When Australia was part of Gondwana the land mass was temperate and moist. As Australia became warmer
and drier, rainforests shrank, and grasslands and sclerophyll (plants having leaves that are tough and leathery
helping to reduce water loss) communities increased. Two fossil species that display this are the “glossopteris”
and the “Gangamopteris”. Grasslands have replaced large forests as the continent dried out, evidence for this
is the Riversleigh fossils.

• Discuss current theories that provide a model to account for these changes
The changes that occurred in the distribution of Australian species as the climate changed are:
1) Continental drift- explains why the climate changed
2) Natural selection- favored species most suited to changing environment
3) Adaptive radiation- explains the spread of species as they became extinct; fewer were left behind
which spread out to uninhabited environments. Adaptive radiation means the change in a species
from its original form to a different form

• Discuss Darwin’s observations of Australian flora and fauna and relate these to his theory of evolution
When Darwin travelled around the world in the ship HMS “The Beagle” the similarities between organisms that
he observed convinced him that an evolutionary tree existed. He observed that many Australian flora and
fauna had similar counterparts from other parts of the world, which prompted his thoughts on evolution. He
believed that similar creatures could arise from a common ancestor (divergent evolution). Organisms started
off distantly related then were subjected to similar environments and evolved similar features (convergent
evolution). Darwin’s observation of Aust. animals revealed similarities with animals living in similar
environments in Europe such as;
• Magpies and crows were similar to jackdaws
• Rat kangaroos were similar to rabbits
• Platypus were similar to water rats

ASSIGNMENT Gather, process and analyze information from secondary sources to develop a timeline that
identifies key events in the formation of Australia as an island continent from its origins as part of Gondwana

ASSIGNMENT gather information from secondary sources to describe some Australian fossils, where these
fossils were found and use available evidence to explain how they contribute to the development of
understanding about the evolution of species in Australia

Perform a first-hand investigation, gather information of named Australian fossil samples and use available
evidence to identify similarities and differences between current and extinct Australian life forms

Present information from secondary sources to discuss the Huxley– Wilberforce debate on Darwin’s theory of

The Huxley-Wilberforce debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution caused much controversy at the time. The
debate was essentially over the religious versus scientific ideologies of the theory.
Many people were outraged by Darwin’s suggestions, the accepted belief at the time was that God had
created the earth and everything in it in six days – this conflicted with Darwin’s views of species changing into
another species as a result of natural selection. The common belief was also humans were created in the
image of God, however in Darwin’s theory of evolution, humans were no different to other species.
In this debate, several British scientists were involved, however it was Huxley and Wilberforce who took over.
Wilberforce is famous for insulting Huxley by asking him if he was related to apes from his grandmothers or
grandfathers side. Huxley was thought to have replied that he would rather be a descendant from two apes
than a man who could not accept the truth.
There is no transcript from the debate, but it is commonly thought that Huxley won the debate. Although this
is the more commonly thought outcome of the debate, other sources suggest otherwise. Wilberforce’s
comment insulting Huxley is consistent throughout all records of the debate, as is Huxley’s reply. The lack of
evidence of the debate can be attributed to a lack of recording technologies. The only way this debate was
recorded was through written forms (newspapers and personal journals) – which were inconsistent as a whole.
The Huxley-Wilberforce debate caused much controversy. The lack of evidence can be attributed to poor
quality recordings and strong biased opinions of those who recorded evidence of the debate. Nonetheless, the
debate was a significant part of the history of the acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
3) Continuation of species has resulted, in part, from the reproductive adaptations that have
evolved in Australian plants and animals

• Distinguish between the processes of meiosis and mitosis in terms of the daughter cells produced

• Compare and contrast external and internal fertilization

• Discuss the relative success of these forms of fertilization in relation to the colonization of terrestrial
and aquatic environments

• Describe some mechanisms found in Australian flora for:

– pollination
– seed dispersal
– asexual reproduction
With reference to local examples

• Describe some mechanisms found in Australian fauna to ensure:

− fertilisation
− survival of the embryo and of the young after birth

• Explain how the evolution of these reproductive adaptations has increased the chances of continuity
of the species in the Australian environment

• Describe the conditions under which asexual reproduction is advantageous, with reference to specific
Australian examples

analyse information from secondary sources to tabulate the differences that distinguish the processes of
mitosis and meiosis

identify data sources, gather, process and analyse information from secondary sources and use available
evidence to discuss the relative success of internal and external fertilization in relation to the colonization of
terrestrial and aquatic environments
plan, choose equipment or resources and perform a first-hand investigation to gather and present information
about flowers of native species of angiosperms to identify features that may be adaptations for wind and
insect/bird/mammal pollination

4) A study of paleontology and past environments increases our understanding of the possible future range of
plants and animals

• Explain the importance of the study of past environments in predicting the impact of human activity
in present environments

• Identify the ways in which paleontology assists understanding of the factors that may determine
distribution of flora and fauna in present and future environments

• Explain the need to maintain biodiversity

Gather, process and analyze information from secondary sources and use available evidence to propose
reasons for the evolution, survival and extinction of species, with reference to specific Australian examples
Process information to discuss a current effort to monitor biodiversity
Life on Earth

1. Analysis of the oldest sedimentary rocks provides evidence for the origin of life

Identify the relationship between the conditions on early Earth and the origin of organic molecules
The volcanic emissions filled the atmosphere with methane, ammonia, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and small amounts of
water vapor.
Anoxic environment meant no O3 present to from ozone layer, which meant large amounts of UV radiation reached the earth; there
were also violent electric storms, which are another source of energy. This is the perfect environment for the production of organic
carbon based molecules.

Discuss the implications of the existence of organic molecules in the cosmos (universe) for the origin of life on Earth
Finding a meteorite in Victoria, Australian 1969 was significant in providing evidence that organic molecules from outside of
earth are similar to ones we have today. 19 of the 92 amino acids identified in the meteorite were found on earth. This
suggests that the source of organic molecules needed for the origin of life on Earth may have in fact originated from outside
the earth.

Describe two scientific theories relating to the evolution of the chemicals of life and discuss their significance in
understanding the origin of life
The chemicals for life were formed on Earth:
1) Haldane and Oparin suggested that early Earth contained all the basic chemical components necessary for
life. They hypothesized that complex organic molecules, like nucleic acids and carbohydrates, could have been created using
inorganic molecules through slow reactions using energy from lightning or UV rays. These complex organic molecules could
have collected together on the surface of the oceans, forming a “soup”, which later could have formed cells. The theory was
untested until the 1950s, by Urey and Miller.

2) Spontaneous generation theory proposed by Aristotle suggests that life arose spontaneously assuming that
certain particles of matter contained an “active principle” which could produce a living organism when conditions were

Discuss the significance of the Urey and Miller experiments in the debate on the composition of the primitive atmosphere
Urey and Miller performed the following experiment to prove Haldane and
Oparin’s theory: A closed system was set up and powerful electrical sparks were passed through a chamber containing
ammonia, hydrogen, and methane.
These chemicals were used because the scientists wanted to recreate the atmosphere of early Earth. Steam was recycled and
passed through the chemicals. After a week the water was tested the condensed water in the flask became red and turbid.
Using paper chromatography techniques they found it contained a number of amino acids.
• Significant – because Urey and Miller’s experiment supported Oparin and Haldane’s theories.
Debate against:
• Doubts on weather the early atmosphere contained free hydrogen according to geological evidence
• It is argued that although lightning storms were common on primitive earth they did not occur continuously
like in the experiment
Debate for:
• Provided the first experimental evidence that it is possible for inorganic substances to compose organic
• The experiment has been repeated using different sources of energy (such as UV light) also thought to have
been on primitive earth which have also produced organic substances

Identify changes in technology that have assisted in the development of an increased understanding of the origin of life and
evolution of living things

• Advances particularly in molecular biology and biochemistry.

• Developments in engineering have enabled both space and deep sea exploration.
• Samples of all types of materials can now be analysed to the molecular level by techniques including chemical analysis and
X-ray crystallography. Chemical separation techniques such as chromatography help to isolate molecules for further study.
• Ages of rocks can be dates by radiometric dating methods.
• Developments in microscopy particularly the electron microscope have led to new understandings.
• Biochemical analysis particularly DNA enabled scientists to undertake comparative studies of different organisms.
• Genetic engineering techniques assist to help understand relationship between organisms and their possible evolutionary

Gather information from secondary sources to describe the experiments of Urey and Miller and use the available
evidence to analyse the:
– reason for their experiments
– result of their experiments
– importance of their experiments in illustrating the nature and practice of science
contribution to hypotheses about the origin of life

• Reason –Oparin and Haldane both suggested that the early atmosphere of earth contained all the necessary basic
chemical components for life. They hypothesized that more complex organic molecules could have been created in slow or
spontaneous reactions using energy from ultraviolet radiation or lighting discharges. Oparin suggested that organic molecules
slowly collected in the surface layers of the oceans, forming an organic “soup”. These molecules could then have combined to
form larger structures, eventually forming cells.
Oparin and Haldane’s theories (above) remained untested. This is a reason for why they undertook it.
• Result - This experiment proved that, if early Earth did contain those chemicals and sufficient energy, life could have
formed from inorganic molecules. The experiment demonstrated that complex organic molecules such as amino acids can be
produced naturally from more basic components.
• Importance of experiment – since the experiment scientists have further developed Oparin and Haldane’s theories on
the origin of life. Recent experiments have demonstrated that amino acids can be produced under conditions more like those of
early earth using ultraviolet light instead of electrical discharged and carbon dioxide instead of ammonia and methane. If
hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is included, a greater variety of amino acids is produced.

2. The fossil record provides information about the subsequent evolution of living things
Identify the major stages in the evolution of living things, including the formation of:
− Organic molecules
− Membranes
− Prokaryotic heterotrophic cells
− Prokaryotic autotrophic cells
− Eukaryotic cells
− Colonial organisms
− Multicellular organisms

• Organic molecules – complex organic molecules formed in water on the early earth
• Membranes – a membrane developed to isolate and protect the system of large complex organic molecules which
evolved to include nucleic acids and became capable of self replication.
• Prokaryotic – the first cells were simple structures known as prokaryotes. They are the earliest type of fossil found.
• Eukaryotic – cells containing a membrane bound nucleus and cell organelles developed
• Colonial organisms – multicellular organisms may have originated when daughter cells became bound together after cell
division to form an aggregation of similar cells or colony. Stromatolites provide an example of this as fossils and as present day
colonial cells.
• Multicellular organisms – multicellular organisms containing cells which show specialization of function evolved. Each cell
has its own particular function and is dependent on others. Each organism however functions as a coordinated whole.

Describe some of the paleontological and geological evidence that suggests when life originated on Earth

Paleontological (study of life in ancient (geological) times, through fossil record)

• Earliest fossils found are of two types
o Microfossils – are similar to present day single celled anaerobic prokaryotic organisms.
o Stromatolites - which are layered mats of photosynthetic prokaryotic cells call cyanobacteria. Whose
modern day descendants can be found in WA.
• These 2 types of fossils are found in rocks 3400 – 3500 million years old from the Warrawoona group in WA.
• Stromatolites are also found in the 2800 – 3000 million year old fig tree group of rocks in South Africa and in 2000 million
year old Gunflint Chert rock found in North America.
• First primitive cells were heterotrophic (they obtained energy by consuming other organic compounds). Then cells
containing pigments developed.
• These cells were able to capture light energy from the Sun and use it to convert carbon dioxide to more complex organic
compounds for their own use (photosynthesized). As a byproduct oxygen was produced.
• The evolution of photosynthesis had a dramatic effect on the earth. It led to an explosion in the abundance of photosynthetic
organisms. The organisms used carbon dioxide which gradually reduced the levels present in the atmosphere. The oxygen
produced did not at first build up in the atmosphere but was taken up by rocks.
• The oxidized rocks can be seen today in the ancient banded iron and red bed rock formations.

Explain why the change from an anoxic to an oxic atmosphere was significant in the evolution of living things
• When all oxidisable surface rock had been saturated with oxygen, oxygen began to build up as a gas in the atmosphere.
Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun reacted with some of the oxygen gas to form ozone.
• As the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere increased, more and more could be converted to ozone, until an ozone layer
formed around the earth, high in the atmosphere. This layer acted as a shield, absorbing ultraviolet radiation so that less
reached the surface of the earth.
• The significance of the change from anoxic atmosphere to an oxic atmosphere was that anaerobic organisms declined.
• As oxygen levels rose, photosynthetic organisms became more abundant, while the growth and metabolism of anaerobic
organisms were inhibited by the presence of oxygen.
• Today anaerobic organisms survive where there is less oxygen such as in mud swamps, bogs, and deep underground or
in Deep Ocean hydrothermal vents.
• The protection of the ozone layer allowed living things to colonise the land.
• As oxygen levels rose in the atmosphere, living systems developed ways to use oxygen directly to produce chemical
• Aerobic organisms evolved that produced energy more efficiently by the process of respiration. Greater metabolic
activity became possible and organisms could be more active.
• Result was an increase in the size and complexity of organisms.
• The presence of oxygen in the atmosphere inhibits the formation of complex organic molecules such as amino acids, and
the abundance of basic chemical components has also been depleted and locked up in existing life forms.

Discuss the ways in which developments in scientific knowledge may conflict with the ideas about the origins of life
developed by different cultures

• Different cultures have developed different ideas to try explain the origins of life. Often related to religious and spiritual
• Many people believe in biblical creationism: the idea that the earth and everything on it was created by god in the first six
days of time rather than by a gradual evolution.
• But some biblical scholars believe that the theory of evolution and our existing scientific knowledge of the earth’s history
does not necessarily conflict with the bibles account, because there are different ways of interpreting the words in the Bible.
• Egyptians + Babylonians – gods created evolution.
• Chinese – first living being was P’an Ku who evolved inside a gigantic cosmic egg.
• Aboriginals – dreamtime. When ancestral beings emerged from beneath the ground and the time when humans, animals,
plants, the world, the sun, the moon and stars were created.

Process and analyse information to construct a timeline of the main events that occurred during the evolution
of life on Earth


Cainozoic Quarternary 0.1 Increase number of herbs Rise of human civilizations
First homo species.
Neogene 23.8 First hominids (human ancestors)

Palaeogene 65 Land dominated by angiosperms Land dominated by mammals (including

apes), birds, insects.
Radiation of mammals
Mesozoic Cretaceous 141 Angiosperms(flowering plants) arise and Last of the dinosaurs; second great
expand as gymnosperms decline expansion of insects
Dinosaurs abundant; first birds.
Jurassic 205 Last of the seeds ferns First dinosaurs; first mammals
Triassic 251
Palaeozoic Permian 298 Land dominated by gymnosperms Rise of reptiles; first land vertibrates
Carboniferous 354 Great coal forming forests; beginning of Age of amphibians; first reptiles; first great
evolution of ferns and gymnosperms expansion of insect species
Devonian 410 Expansion of primitive vascular plants; Age of fishes; first amphibians and insects;
origin of first seed plants towards end of corals dominant
period; first liverworts
Silurian 434 Invasion of land by first vascular plants Invasion of land by a few anthropods
towards end of period
Ordovician 490 Marine algae abundant Invertebrates dominant; first corals;
vertebrates (fish)
Cambrian 545 Primitive marine algae Marine invertebrates abundant, including
representatives of most modern phyla.
Precambrian 680 First invertebrates
2600 First eukaryotes
3050 First prokaryotes
4600 Formation of the earth

Gather first-hand or secondary information to make observations of a range of plant and animal fossils

• Study of fossils called paleontology

• Fossils – are preserved remains or traces of past life found in sedimentary rocks or other material of different ages.
• Fossilization is a rare event. Hard parts such as bones, teeth and shells of animals and wood, pollen and spores of plants
are most commonly preserved.
• Traces of organisms such as foot prints, trails, burrows and even animal excreta can tell us something about the
organisms that made them.
• Woolly mammoths – more than 10,000 years old have been found frozen in the permanently frozen soil of Siberia.
• Resin from coniferous trees may trap insects and preserve them whole when the resin hardens to form amber
• Peat bogs may preserve whole organism in a mummified condition
• These remains are often called “sub fossils”

Identify data sources, gather, process, analyse and present information from secondary sources to evaluate
the impact of increased understanding of the fossil record on the development of ideas about the history of
life on Earth

3. further developments in our knowledge of present day organisms and the discovery of new
organisms allows for better understanding of the origins of life and the processes involved in the
evolution of living things

Described technological advances that have increased knowledge of prokaryotic organisms

• Electron microscopes have increased our knowledge of prokaryotic organisms. Carl Woese discovered
the existence of two fundamentally different types of prokaryotes, using comparative sequencing.
Feature Prokaryotic cells Eukaryotic cells
Examples: Archaea and Examples: plants, animals and
Eubacteria fungi
Membrane bound organelles absent Present
Chromosome Single strand of DNA, often More than one chromosome
Nucleolus absent Present
Ribosome’s Present but small Present
Endoplasmic reticulum Absent Present
Microtubules Absent Present
Enzymes of respiration Attached in infoldings of cell Attached to internal membranes
membrane of mitochondria
Photosynthetic pigments Attached in infoldings of cell Attached to internal membranes
membrane of chloroplasts (plants only)
Cellular natures Unicellular Unicellular or multicellular
Cell division Not by mitosis By mitosis
Average cell size 1micrometre 10-100 micrometers.

Describe the main features of the environment occupied by one of the following and identify the role of this
organism in its ecosystem
- Archaea
- Eubacteria
- Cyanobacteria, including those that form Stromatolites
- Nitrogen fixing bacteria
- Methanogens
- Deep sea bacteria

• Archaea: 3 groups of Archaea: Methanogens, halophiles and thermophiles. They are all found in unusual or
extreme environments.
o Methanogens – are found in bogs and deep soils in marine and freshwater sediments in the intestinal tracts of
herbivores and in sewage treatment facilities. There are anaerobic and cannot tolerate exposure to oxygen.
o Methanogens activity created most of the earth’s natural gas deposits.
o They play a role in the recycling of carbon and are important decomposers. The methane they release into the
atmosphere contributes to the carbon cycle.

o Halophiles – are found in environments where salt concentration is very high, such as the Dead Sea in the Middle
East, the Great Salt Lake in the USA. They are all aerobic. They can photosynthesize and produce energy without using
o They are part of the food chain in their ecosystem and are consumed by filter feeders. Very little is known about
their role.
o Thermophiles – required high temperatures for growth (80-105*C) they are found in areas of volcanic activity
such as hot springs, geysers and hydrothermal vents and cracks in the ocean floor. Often called deep sea bacteria. They
use sulphur as an energy source.
o Role – the deep seas sulfur oxidizing bacteria in hydrothermal vents are the primary producers in the deep sea
food web. The organism provides the shelter and the bacteria provide the nutrients – symbiotic relationship.
• Eubacteria – are found everywhere: soil, water, air and decaying organic material. With fungi they play an important role
as decomposers of organic matter for recycling in nature.
• As decomposers, soil bacteria secrete enzymes on dead organic material. Once material is broken down to simpler
compound, the bacteria absorb those they require.
• Cyanobacteria – were once classified with simple algae. They all contain a blue pigment called phycocyanin. They occur
naturally in wet or damp situations: ponds, streams, wet rocks and soil. They flourish in warm conditions particularly where the
water contains dissolved organic material. They are primary producers at the base of the food chain within their ecosystem.
They generate large quantities of oxygen in the earth’s oceans and are sometimes called grass of the sea.
• Stromatolites are cyanobacteria first discovered in fossils more than 3000 million years old. Their abundance and carbon
fixation ability in photosynthesis over millions of years contributed to the reduction in carbon dioxide and increase in free
oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere.

4. The study of present day organisms increases our understanding of past organisms and
Explain the need for scientists to classify organisms
• In order to make the study of diversity of life easier, biologists group together organisms that have similar characteristics.
This is called the classification system.
• They help biologists to understand the relationships between organisms, and to talk to other biologists about organisms
without having to describe organisms in detail.
• The science of classifying organisms is known as taxonomy.
• The systems aim to reflect our current knowledge of the world and living things
• Classification systems are considered to be arbitrary (uncertain) because each one reflects the views of the biologist who
devised it.

Describe the selection criteria used in different classification systems and discuss the advantages and
disadvantages of each system

• Organisms may differ in the following ways: anatomy (structure), physiology (functioning), behavior, and biochemistry
(molecular activity).
• The most practical one for use in the classifying field is anatomical structure.
• The classification of animals is based mainly on structure, and the classification of plants is based on both structure and
means of reproduction.
• Plants – are organisms that contain chlorophyll and make their own food. Their cells are eukaryotic are surrounded by a
cellulose cell wall.
• Animals – are the organisms which do not contain chlorophyll and cannot make their food. Their cells are eukaryotic and
have no cell wall. Animals can be unicellular or multicellular.
• Protists – are single celled organisms whose cells are eukaryotic for example protozoans and some algae.
• Monera – are singled celled organisms whose cells are prokaryotic for example bacteria and cyanobacteria.
• Fungi – are organisms which do not contain chlorophyll but their cells are eukaryotic and surrounded by a cellulose cell
wall. Some fungi are unicellular (yeasts) while others appear to be multicellular.
• Disadvantages –
o Fungi are a problem when being placed in a kingdom.
o Depending on the criteria used algae can be classified into protest or plant.
• The 5 kingdoms model recognizes two major cellular structural divisions within living things – eukaryotic and
• Viruses and prions still remain outside every kingdom

Explain how levels of organization in a hierarchical system assist classification

• Carolus Linnaeus first divided the world into animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms.
• Organisms are placed into groups at different levels according to the features they share.
• A branching patter (tree) emerges which assists us to see the relationships between organisms.

Discuss, using examples, the impact of changes in technology on the development and revision of biological
classification systems

• Light microscope – revealed that living things were made up of cells.

• Improved light microscopes/electron microscopes revealed more detail.
• Advances in molecular biology and biochemistry are causing further revisions.
• Recent advances in molecular techniques such as comparing the sequence of amino acids in proteins or the sequencing
of DNA bases along short lengths of chromosomes from related organisms have considerably added to our knowledge of
evolutionary relationships between organisms and allowed taxonomists to change and refine the existing classification

Describe the main features of the binomial system in naming organisms and relate these to the concepts of
genus and species
• Sometimes one animal can have several different common names. And one name for several different animals.
• To overcome this problem, scientists use the binomial system to give every type of organism’s only one name, which is
called the scientific name.
• The system was developed by Linnaeus in the 18th Century.
• In the binomial system of classification, an organism us given a name consisting of two words. The first word has a
capital letter and represents the genus to which the organism belongs.
• The second word represents the species within the genus to which the organism belongs. Both words are always printed
in italics
• The species is the basic group of classification.
• Many organisms are names after the person who first discovered them.

Identify and discuss the difficulties experienced in classifying extinct organisms

• Fossil evidence may be incomplete or may not show enough detail of the organism’s structure for classification
• If the organism has been extinct for a long period of time there may be no similar type of living organisms with which to
compare it.
• The rules for naming organisms allow scientists to name fossils even if they have only a part of the organism. This
enables every fossil to be given a name, but it also means that one organism might end up with two or more scientific
names. In that case the first name used would be the correct name.

Explain how classification of organisms can assist in developing and understanding of present and past life on

• ORDERING – grouping helps to bring a sense of order. It is convenient way of organizing living things to study them and
makes it easier by simplifying the description of living things. The single group word (bird) describes many of the organisms
characteristics (an egg laying animal with two legs, two wings, feathers and a beak)
• COMMUNICATING – classification helps us communicate with each other. Biologists in the world use the same system for
naming organisms. Each living thing has an internationally accepted name and can be distinguished from any other by using
that name. The words used are written in Latin.
• RELATIONSHIPS – classification helps to work out relationships between organisms. This is a field of study in which there is
much speculation because of our increasing knowledge, at the genetic and molecular level of the similarities and differences
between organisms. Traditionally, classification schemes have shown us the diversity of present day organisms, while at the
same time attempting to show how old they are and their evolutionary relationships. Classification systems are called
phylogenetic when they try to reflect the evolutionary history of the organisms that are grouped together.
• CONSERVATION – classification is the first step in learning about the relationships of organisms with their environment.
Once endangered animals and plants have been identified, we can take action to conserve and protect them.