In individual organisms don’t evolve genetically – the

In 1859 Charles Darwin’s The Origins of Specieswas introduced to the world.

Consequently, the study of life and where it camefrom has not been the same since. For more than 150 years, Darwin’s work has beenevolving into a powerful and multi-faceted theory and has become the foundationfor many modern sciences. The basis of the evolutionary theory is that livingorganisms can change over time and thus produce new species from this variation– resulting in all species sharing a common ancestor that long ago made thedecision to crawl out of the primordial soup.

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When discussing evolution, itshould be stressed that individual organisms don’t evolve genetically – thepopulation that an organism belongs to can evolve as each generation contributesdifferent traits to the proverbial pool. The process of evolution can beexplained through Darwin’s three principles of evolution and the four processesof evolution. Add to this the material evidence of evolution and one has reasonenough to believe the theory – fossil records clearly show that the process of evolutionis no longer merely a philosophy. The first of Darwin’s three principles ofevolution is variability – meaning that “no two individuals are identical inall respects” (Lavenda and Schultz 40).

Variability plays a significant role inevolution: it directly affects a species’ ability to adapt and survive in achanging environment. Genetic variability means that there is a potential for agenotype to change when exposed to environmental or genetic factors, thusgiving the organism’s offspring’s population an advantage when facing thatfactor in the future.Inheritability is the second of Darwin’s threeprinciples of evolution. Essentially, evolution occurs when inheritable traitsbecome more common or rare in a population: this can happen randomly throughmutations or genetic drift or non-randomly through natural selection, but the genestransferred between populations and generations must be inheritable. The third of Darwin’s principles, and the firstof the four processes of evolution, is that of natural selection. Evolution bydifferential reproductive success (natural selection) is a two-step process:first, random genetic information must be produced. Second, the specific traitsof an organism that are desirable – in other words – better suited to equipthem to meet the environmental challenges that they face and thus are more ableand likely to survive – are passed onto their offspring, and the cycle beginsagain.

As explained by Lavenda and Schultz, and according to Darwinianprinciples, pandas got their “thumbs” (40) due to those with longer wrist bonesthan others prevailing in the competition for bamboo to eat. These elongatedwrist bones made the process of gathering bamboo to eat far more efficient,meaning that the pandas with said elongated wrist bones survived and had moreoffspring than those with shorter wrist bones. This lead Darwin to concludethat the varietals must have descended from a distant, common ancestor. The second process of evolution is mutation.Mutations occur when the form of a gene changes randomly. This unpredictabilityis a divergence from the normal practice of stable gene inheritance, as theyare not goal-oriented. Mutations can be beneficial – like pesticide resistancein insects or harmful – like cystic fibrosis in humans. The third process of evolution is genetic drift– which is an umbrella term encapsulating the founder effect and the bottleneckeffect.

The founder effect is the loss of genetic variation that occurs when anew population is established out of a larger population by a small number ofindividuals. An example of the founder’s effect in humans can be found in theAmish having higher than normal rates of polydactyl (extra fingers), due to theAmish community being founded by a relatively small group with higher thannormal polydactyl rates. Because the Amish usually do not reproduce outside oftheir community, the skewed allele frequency is maintained throughoutgenerations. The bottleneck effect is the potential loss of alleles after anevent such as disease or disaster greatly reduces the size of a population.

The fourth process of evolution is Gene flow(the introduction of new genetic information). This transfer of alleles betweenpopulations can be one-way, like a bee delivering pollen from a neighboringfield to another species of flower, or two-way, like two separate herds of deerinterbreeding. Gene flow is essential in the process of evolution as itmaintains variation within a population yet reduces variation betweenpopulations on a larger scale. As Steven Stanley, and evolutionary biologist,states: “the theory of evolution is not just getting older, it is gettingbetter.” (32) When Darwin published The Origin of Species, the notion that alllife on earth being descended from a common ancestor was fiercely debated amongthe scientists of that day. Today, there is no substantial scientific doubtabout the many close evolutionary links found between all organisms on earth.

Evolutionis one of the most vital concepts in current science and supports and is supportedby many different fields of scientific study.