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Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Chapter 15. The Puzzle of Life’s Diversity 15-1. In 1831, at age 22, Charles Darwin joined the crew of the H.M.S. Beagle as a naturalist for a 5 year voyage around the world. . Darwin went ashore and collected plant and animal specimens for his collection.

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Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

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the puzzle of life s diversity 15 1
The Puzzle of Life’s Diversity15-1
  • In 1831, at age 22, Charles Darwin joined the crew of the H.M.S. Beagle as a naturalist for a 5 year voyage around the world.

Darwin went ashore and collected plant and animal specimens for his collection.

  • He studied the specimens, read the latest scientific books, and filled many notebooks with his observations and thoughts.
  • This led him to propose a revolutionary hypothesis about the way life changes.
what is evolution
What is Evolution?
  • Any change in the heritable traits within a population across generations
  • Results in new species
darwin s observations
Darwin’s Observations
  • Life is Diverse:
    • Darwin observed many different kinds of plants and animals
    • All were well suited to the environments they inhabited
    • He was impressed by the ways in which organisms survived and produced offspring


    • The preserved remains of once living organisms
    • Some of those fossils resembled organisms that were still alive
    • Others looked completely unlike any creature he had ever seen

3. The Galapagos Islands:

  • The islands are very close together but have very different climates.
    • Some are hot and dry with little vegetation while others are rich in rainfall and vegetation
  • Each island had its own unique assortment of plant and animal species.
giant tortoises of the gal pagos islands
Giant Tortoises of the Galápagos Islands

and on Pinta Island, tortoise necks

were somewhere in between




Pinta IslandIntermediate shell



Santa Cruz


Santa Fe

Hood Island

Saddle-backed shell



On the desert-like Hood Island,

tortoises had long necks…

Isabela Island

Dome-shaped shell

…while on the lush rainforest of Isabela Island,

tortoises had short necks…


After his voyage, Darwin spent a great deal of time thinking about his findings.

    • Had animals living on different islands once been members of the same ancestral species that developed different characteristics after becoming isolated from one another in different habitats?
ideas that shaped darwin s thinking 15 2
Ideas that Shaped Darwin’s Thinking15-2
  • James Hutton
    • 1785
    • Proposes that the earth was shaped by geological forces which occurred over very long periods of time and is millions of years old.

Charles Lyell

    • 1833
    • Proposes that the geological process that shaped the earth are still occurring now.
  • How did Hutton and Lyell’s work influence Darwin’s theory of evolution?

This understanding of geology led Darwin to conclude…

    • If the earth could change over time, so could life.
    • The earth must be older that was previously thought

Thomas Malthus

    • 1798
    • Observed that birth rate far surpassed death rate.
    • Proposed that famine, disease, and war were necessary and unavoidable population controls.
    • Darwin is influenced because he sees that there will be a struggle for existence within species.

Jean-Bapiste Lamarck

    • 1809
    • First to propose a scientific theory for the way life changed over time
    • First to suggest that all life descended from a common ancestor
    • First to realize that species were specially adapted to their environments
lamarck s theory
Lamarck’s Theory
  • Lamarck proposed that through selective use and disuse of organs, organisms could gain or loose traits.
  • Further, he believed that those acquired characteristics could be inherited by offspring.
  • He says that this is how species changed over time

The male fiddler crab uses its front claw to attract mates and fight off predators.

Through repeated use, the front claw becomes larger.

The fiddler passes on this acquired characteristic to its offspring


What’s RIGHT about Lamarck’s theory?

    • First to develop a scientific hypothesis about evolution and recognize that organisms are adapted to their environments.
  • What’s WRONG about Lamarck’s theory?
    • Didn’t know about genes and how traits are inherited
    • Acquired traits CAN NOT be passed on!
      • Ex) if you lifted weights your whole adult life, and then had children, your children would not be born more muscular!
darwin presents his case 15 3
Darwin Presents his Case15-3
  • After Darwin returned to England in 1836 he filled notebooks with his ideas and the process that he would later call evolution.
  • He did not rush to publish his ideas because they disagreed with the fundamental religious and scientific ideas of the day.
  • He asked his wife to publish his ideas after he died.

1858—Alfred Russel Wallace, another naturalist, publishes an essay describing his work in Malaysia and outlining the same ideas that Darwin had for 25 years!

    • This provided the incentive that Darwin needed to publish his own ideas.

1859—Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species

    • Presented his evidence for evolution
    • Darwin proposes a mechanism for evolution called NATURAL SELECTION
inherited variation artificial selection
Inherited Variation & Artificial Selection
  • Darwin noticed that plant and animal breeders would breed only the largest hogs, fastest horses, or the cows that produced the most milk
    • He called this, Artificial Selection

 Selection by humans for breeding of useful traits from the natural variation among different organisms.


Breeds of Dogs

Chihuahua – bred from Techichi of Mexico

by Mayans, had religious significance

Saint Bernard – bred by monks around 1050 A.D.

to rescue travelers of mountain passes in the

Swiss Alps between Italy and Switzerland

Irish Wolfhound – bred in Ireland to

hunt wolves and elk

Dachshund – bred in Germany as early

as the 15th century to hunt badgers

evolution by natural selection
Evolution by Natural Selection
  • Darwin compared processes in nature to artificial selection. He thought that nature could “select” organisms based on their fitness.
natural selection
Natural Selection
  • Genetic variation is found naturally in all populations
  • The environment presents certain challenges
    • Struggle for existence: members of each species must compete for food, space, and other resources.
  • Some variation is more favorable; some is not favorable
natural selection cont
Natural Selection (cont.)

4. Individuals with the favorable traits (adaptations) will survive and reproduce more than those individuals without the favorable trait.

= Survival of the fittest

  • Ability to survive and reproduce = fitness
  • Any inherited characteristic that increases an organisms chance of survival = adaptation

5. The favorable variation will become more common in the population.

descent with modification
Descent with Modification
  • Suggests that each species has descended with changes from other species over time.
  • Further suggests that all living things are related to each other and that all species, living and extinct, share a common ancestor.
evidence for evolution
Evidence for Evolution
  • The Fossil Record
    • Fossils = the remains of ancient organisms found in layers of rock
    • Fossils are thought to be the same age as the rock they are found in
    • Rock tells the history of earth while fossils tell the history of life.
transitional fossils
Transitional Fossils
  • FishTetrapod
  • Shows the transition between 2 species
evidence cont
Evidence (cont.)

2. Geographic Distribution

  • Darwin thought that the Galápagos finches could have descended with modification from a common mainland ancestor
evidence cont1
Evidence (cont.)

3. Homologous Body Structures

  • these are structures that have different mature forms, but develop from the same embryonic tissue
  • similarities and differences help biologists group animals according to how recently they shared a common ancestor
homologous body structures
Homologous Body Structures





Ancient lobe-finned fish


Not all homologous structures serve important functions.

  • The organs of many animals are so reduced in size that they are just vestiges, or traces, of homologous organs in other species.
  • These organs are called vestigial organs.
evidence cont2
Evidence (cont.)

4. Embryology

  • The early stages, or embryos, of many animals with backbones are very similar.
  • Similarities of embryos provides evidence of a common ancestor.
patterns of evolution 17 4
Patterns of Evolution17-4
  • Macroevolution—refers to large scale evolutionary patterns and processes that occur over long periods of time
  • Five important topics in macroevolution are:
    • extinction
    • adaptive radiation
    • convergent evolution
    • coevolution
    • gradualism & punctuated equilibrium
  • More than 99% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct!
  • Mass Extinction = when large numbers of species disappear
  • Result is the remaining species now have new niches (jobs) to fill, and may then thrive causing bursts of evolution that produces many new species.
adaptive radiation
Adaptive Radiation
  • Process by which a single species or a small group of species evolves into several different forms that live in different ways
    • Ex) Darwin’s Finches—more than a dozen species evolved (due to different habitats) from a single species
  • Can also happen on a much larger scale
    • Extinction of dinosaurs = adaptive radiation of mammals
convergent evolution
Convergent Evolution
  • Process by which unrelated organisms come to resemble one another, due to living in similar environments.
    • They develop structures that look and function similarly, but are made up of different parts = analogous structures
    • EX: A bat’s wing (mammal) and a bird’s wing are analogous structures
  • When organisms that are closely connected to one another by ecological interactions evolve together.
  • The two species evolve in response to changes in each other over time.
gradualism vs punctuated equilibrium
Gradualism vs. Punctuated Equilibrium
  • Evolution has often proceeded at different rates for different organisms at different times during the history of life on Earth.
  • Gradualism:
    • Darwin felt that biological change was slow and steady, an idea known as gradualism.
gradualism vs punctuated equilibrium1
Gradualism vs. Punctuated Equilibrium
  • Punctuated equilibrium: a pattern of evolution in which long stable periods are interrupted by brief periods of rapid change.