Darwin not first to suggest evolution occurs. Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). Published his theory of evolution in 1809. Mechanism -- Inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Inheritance of acquired characteristics: Characteristics an organism acquires during its lifetime are passed on to its offspring. Example: Giraffes stretch their necks to reach leaves. As a result their young born with longer necks.
Lamarck’s mechanism does not work because DNA is not changed by an organism’s behavior or experiences. One-way flow of information from DNA to body.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Son of a wealthy doctor. Studied medicine. Dropped out. Then studied theology. Keen naturalist and hunter.
Voyage of The Beagle (1831-1836) Darwin companion for Captain Fitzroy. (Darwin not the official naturalist.) Beagle sailed around the World. Mission to map coast of South America.
Sites visited included Galapagos Islands. Volcanic islands (hence of recent origin) off coast of Ecuador. Unique animals on Galapagos include giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and Darwin’s finches.
On voyage Darwin read Lyell’s Principles of Geology. Book emphasized: 1. Gradualism: Geological features can be explained by gradual action of processes we see around us. E.g. wind, waves, rivers. 2. Great age of the earth
What Darwin observed 1. South American fossils resembled living animals. e.g. Extinct glyptodont (2,000 kg) resembles modern-day armadillo (2 kg).
What Darwin observed: 2. Parts of the world with similar climates (e.g. Australia, South America) populated by very different organisms.
What Darwin observed: 3. Plants and animals on each continent are distinctive. E.g. kangaroos in Australia, guinea pigs, armadillos in South America.
What Darwin observed: 4. Many species on oceanic islands are found only there (endemic). Often groups of very similar species found on these islands. E.g. Galapagos finches and tortoises. These are examples of adaptive radiation.
Large Cactus Ground Finch
Sharp- beaked Ground Finch
What Darwin observed: 5. Endemic species on islands closely resemble species on adjacent mainland.
These observations suggested to Darwin that species are not unchanging. Instead species change over time i.e., Evolution occurs. But how does evolution take place?
Key breakthrough when Darwin read: Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of population. Malthus: Populations increase geometrically (multiplicatively), but resources do not. Populations will outgrow their food supply.
Darwin concluded that among organisms there is a struggle for existence. Only the best adapted organisms survive to breed. Darwin called the mechanism that causes evolution to occur: natural selection.
Darwin’s logic 5 observations and 3 inferences (or conclusions).
Observation 1. If all organisms bred successfully populations would increase exponentially. Observation 2. However, populations generally stay stable over time. Observation 3. Resources are limited.
Inference 1. Because resources are limited, more individuals are born than the environment can support. There is a struggle for existence (and ultimately for reproduction.) Only some individuals survive to breed.
Observation 4. Individuals differ in their characteristics. There is variation. Observation 5. Much of that variation is heritable.
Inference 2. Survival and reproduction are not random. The characteristics of an organism, which it inherits, affect its chances of survival and reproduction. Organisms best adapted to the environment on average leave the most offspring.
Inference 3. Because variation is heritable, differences between individuals in their reproductive success lead to changes in the characteristics of the next generation. Evolution occurs.
Darwin developed his ideas in 1842, but did not publish them immediately. In 1858 Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to Darwin. He had independently developed the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Joint presentation of their ideas in 1858. Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. Explained in detail his ideas about evolution and natural selection.
Major difficulty for Darwin was that he did not understand how inheritance occurs. Darwin did not express his ideas in terms of genes. He had no idea what genes were or what DNA was.
Basic genetics terminology DNA is the genetic material. The instructions for making and “operating” an organism are written in DNA. DNA is divided into sections called genes.
Each gene codes for a protein. Together the genes determine the characteristics of an organism.
Alleles are different versions of a gene. If a single gene codes for flower color, white and blue flowers would be coded for by 2 different alleles.
You possess two copies of each gene in your body*. One copy is inherited from each parent. For a given gene you may have two different alleles or two copies of the same allele. (* excluding genes on sex chromosomes in males).
A homozygous individual has two copies of a particular allele. (AA) A heterozygous individual has two different alleles. (Aa)
Genotype and phenotype • An organism’s genes (its genotype) play a large role in determining its physical appearance (its phenotype). • But remember an organism’s phenotype is also affected by the environment.
Today we express evolutionary ideas in terms of genes because genes are the only things passed from one generation to the next.
In the process of natural selection, genes that help organisms to survive and reproduce become more common. Genes that help less or are harmful gradually are eliminated from the population.
Only those individuals that are the most successful, e.g. the fastest, the best camouflaged, the best foragers, etc. succeed in breeding. The genes of other individuals are not passed on to the next generation.
Natural selection is the term used to describe the process by which the best genes are chosen in each generation. Evolution occurs when gene frequencies change from one generation to the next.
As a result of natural selection organisms become increasingly well adapted to their environments. Adaptations are characteristics of organisms that enable them to survive in their environments.
Evolution is a population process. An individual does not evolve.
Peppered Moth and industrial melanism. Peppered moth occurs in two forms: light, speckled form and dark (melanic) form. In early 1800’s dark form very rare. Dark form caused by dominant mutation that occurs spontaneously.