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Darwins Theory of Evolution

The Influence of Darwins Contemporaries

Gradualism & geology (Hutton) changes in the

Earth can take effect through the cumulative effect of slow processes

Uniformitarianism (Lyell) the same geologic

processes that exist today, existed in the past and occur at the same rate as in the past

Georges Cuvier & Paleontology

Cuvier (1769-1832) began the study of
fossils in strata (layers) of rock Observations:
The older the rock layer the greater the variation of the fossils from contemporary animals From one layer to the next certain species disappeared and new species emerged

Conclusion: extinctions are a common part

of life

Influence of Thomas Malthus

Malthus was an economic scholar who
wrote a paper titled The Principle of Population (1798) He stated that individuals in a population produce many offspring, but only a few survive the rest are eaten, diseased, frozen, starved, unmated or infertile He reasoned that this was beneficial for the stability and success of a population

Darwins Trip on the Beagle

1831- 1836 trip on the Beagle Argentina Darwins first significant

discovery in a region rich in fossils called Punta Alta

Darwin found fossils of 9 mammals unknown or little known to science 4 species of giant sloths; Megatherium was found to be the size of an elephant Also found an extinct horse, giant rodent and the shell of a giant Armadillo

6 foot+ armadillo found in Florida; lived about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago

Giant Sloth
Eremotherium skeleton , National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Several other fossils were also found in


Importance of fossil findings: Darwin noticed

that the plants and animals had developed adaptations and were similar to known species, but not identical Darwin also noticed that the living species he encountered resembled other species on the continent more closely than in similar climates on different continents

Galapagos Islands
The islands are an archipelago of volcanic
islands and are geologically young Importance: when volcanic islands form they are initially devoid of life Islands become colonized as organisms make their way from the nearest mainland to the island

What Darwin Learned on the Islands

He found species that didnt exist

anywhere else; he reasoned that the animals became geographically isolated on the islands and change Darwin also discovered that each species changed from island to island; Darwin reasoned that this resulted from adaptation of each species to a given islands characteristics

Above: Galapagos Mockingbird Right: San Cristobal mockingbird

Above: Espanola Mockingbird

The finches of the Galapagos Islands diversified after an initial colonization from the mainland to exploit different food sources on different islands.

Formulation of Darwins Theory

Observations from HMS Beagle trip Question: Could a new species arise from

an ancestral form? Hypothesis: Organisms that stray to new habitats diversify and change Experiments: not traditional experiments; examined specimens and made inferences

Logic of Darwins Theory

(as stated by Ernst Mayr)

Observation 1: For any species, population

sizes would increase exponentially if all individuals that are born reproduced successfully Observation 2: Populations tend to remain stable in size Observation 3: Resources are limited Inference 1: Overproduction of individuals leads to competition for resources; only a fraction survive

Observation 4: Members of a population

vary; no 2 are exactly alike Observation 5: The variation is heritable Inference 2: Survival favors individuals who inherit traits giving them higher fitness and greater reproductive success Inference 3: The unequal ability of individuals to survive and reproduce leads to a gradual change in the population, with favorable characteristics accumulating over generations

Two Points of Darwins Theory

1. Descent with modification (Darwins term

for evolution) new species descend from ancestral species by the accumulation of modifications as POPULATIONS adapt to new environments 2. Natural Selection (mechanism of evolution) individuals that are best suited for survival, live to reproduce and pass on their genes; DIFFERENTIAL REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS

Population Variation

Six Evidences for Evolution

1. Artificial Selection 2. Anatomical Homologies 3. Fossil Record 4. Biogeography 5. Embryological Homologies 6. Molecular Homologies

Evidence #1: Artificial Selection

Artificial selection is the selective breeding
of plants, livestock and pets; has been done for generations

Darwin set up a pigeon breeding loft at his

home and began breeding pigeons in order to study the variation that existed in the pigeon population

Pigeon Breeding
Pigeon breeding was a common hobby in Darwins time with individuals seeking new and unique varieties
Pigeons breeders developed around 200 different varieties of pigeons from the rock pigeon

Artificial Selection in Plants

Darwins conclusion based on artificial selection:

Darwin reasoned that if humans could so dramatically alter a species in a few generations then it seemed logical that nature could dramatically alter a species over hundreds or thousands of generations

Evidence #2: Anatomical Homologies

Definition similarities in structural

characteristics result from two organisms sharing a common ancestor

Reason for the observed differences in the

structural features: altered features are not novel, but are modifications and adaptations of a previously existing structure

Two Types of Anatomical Homologies

1. Homologous Structures structural

features in organisms that are a variation based on a common structural theme 2. Vestigial organs or structures structures present in an animal that serve no functional purpose, but exist as a remnant from an ancestor
Example: appendix in humans or pelvis in snakes

Vestigial Organs
Example: snakes have remnants of
legs and a pelvic girdle

Python Fossil With Pelvic Girdle and Working Legs

Arrector Pili Muscles

Goose Bumps

Homologous Structures

Evidence #5: Embryological Homologies

Related organisms share certain embryological

similarities during development that serve different functions in the adults

Haeckls Embryos

Evidence #6 Molecular Homologies Genetic code is universal among

organisms All living organisms share a lot of similarities in their DNA

Humans and chimps there is only a 1% difference in their genetic make-up Humans and bacteria actually have many genes in common Humans and bananas share 50% of their DNA

Specific Types of Molecular Homologies

1. Atavisms
2. Pseudogenes

Atavisms anatomical structures that
sometimes appear in an organism, but serve no functional purpose Example: humans still contain the same genes that mice use to produce a tail, but only occasionally are these genes expressed resulting in a baby born with a small, nonfunctional tail


Pseudogenes are genes that are

20,000 30,000 genes

permanently silenced in the genome

Humans have 2,000 pseudogenes out of our

Example: Gene to make Vitamin C

Humans contain the gene that is used to make Vitamin C from glucose, but it is inactivated by a mutation The exact same gene and mutation is also found in primates Other mammals also contain the nonmutated version of the gene and produce Vitamin C

Where Embryological and Molecular Homologies Overlap

HOX genes

Hox Genes
Hox genes are a family of
segmentation genes that code for transcription factor proteins that regulate embryonic development These genes are conserved across most species and contain a a 180 nucleotide sequence called the homeobox

Hox Genes Function

When Hox genes are translated the
homeobox sequence forms a region of the protein called the homeodomain

The homeodomain allows the protein

to bind to the DNA and initiate transcription of genes involved in embryonic development

Conservation of HOX Genes

Why is the fact that HOX genes are found in many species important to evolution?
Answer: It demonstrates that it is NOT the appearance of new genes that results in increasing complexity, but it is the result of the duplication of existing genes

How do these genes become duplicated?

Answer: Errors during crossing over in Prophase I of meiosis

Chromosomal Abnormalities
1. Deletion only a portion or fragment of the chromosome is lost 2. Duplication a fragment deleted from one chromosome is attached to another chromosome resulting in extra copies of that chromosomal segment

Question: Do we see evidence that natural selection is still occurring?

Evolution of Drug Resistant HIV

Examples of Natural Selection

Important Points about Natural Selection

1. Occurs through interactions between individual

organisms & their environment; individuals DO NOT themselves evolve; populations evolve

2. Only amplifies or diminishes current variations

in alleles; acquired characteristics do not get passed on to offspring

3. It is situational; environmental factors vary

and may favor different adaptations at different times. A trait that is favorable in one situation may be detrimental in another situation

Descent with Modification