Chapter Study Outline

  1. The Theory of Evolution: The Context for Darwin
    1. Darwin relied heavily on five scientific disciplines of his time.
    2. Geology: Reconstructing Earth’s Dynamic History
      1. The earth is 4.6 billion years old.
      2. The surface of the earth has changed significantly over time.
      3. The great age of the earth was a radical theory in Darwin’s time.
      4. James Hutton was among the first to study natural forces (wind, rain) and calculated Earth’s age at millions of years.
        1. Uniformitarianism is Hutton’s idea that natural forces operating today are the same as natural processes that happened in the past.
        2. The idea was rediscovered by Lyell.
    3. Paleontology: Reconstructing the History of Life on Earth
      1. Robert Hooke tested the idea that fossils were the remains of ancient life by studying the microscopic structure of wood.
        1. Since fossil wood had a structure identical to that of living trees, Hooke concluded that fossil wood came from once living trees.
      2. Georges Cuvier studied fossil anatomy, pioneering the fields of paleontology and comparative anatomy.
        1. His observations led to catastrophism, or the idea that earthquakes or volcanic eruptions can lead to mass extinctions.
        2. Cuvier formulated important descriptions of geologic strata, showing that early strata contained dinosaur fossils and more recent strata contained mostly mammals.
    4. Taxonomy and Systematics: Classifying Living Organisms and Identifying Their Biological Relationships
      1. Before Darwin, most scientists realized the need for a classification of life-forms, or taxonomy.
      2. Early taxonomy was based on the idea that species did not change and reflected what the taxonomists thought was God’s purpose.
      3. Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus) developed the system of binomial nomenclature used today.
        1. Each plant and animal had its own genus and species names.
        2. Linnaeus’s book on taxonomy went through many revisions, and with each he added more levels to the system.
        3. Linnaeus thought that life-forms were static, however.
        4. Today, the focus on taxonomic relationships over time is called systematics.
    5. Demography: Influences on Population Size and Competition for Limited Resources
      1. Darwin read many works by important authors, such as Thomas Malthus, after he returned to England.
      2. Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population made the case that populations are limited by their food supply.
      3. In the ensuing struggle for food, individuals that successfully compete for food survive and reproduce.
      4. Darwin added Malthus’s idea, of individual characteristics facilitating survival, to his own ideas.
    6. Evolutionary Biology: Explaining the Transformation of Earlier Life-forms into Later Life-forms
      1. By the late 1700s, scientists began to argue that biological organisms frequently changed form.
      2. His idea is called the Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics.
      3. We now know Lamarck’s hypothesis about the mechanism of change is incorrect.
  2. The Theory of Evolution: Darwin’s Contribution
    1. Darwin’s main contribution was the synthesis of ideas with personal observations of the natural world.
      1. Darwin observed fossils in South America that resembled living creatures.
      2. Darwin drew on Malthus’s ideas of reproduction, variation, and population to form his theory of speciation.
      3. Darwin hypothesized that offspring that survive in an environment would possess advantages for acquiring food and that the frequency of the advantage would increase. As environmental conditions changed, offspring without advantages to adapt to the change would die off. Over time, a common ancestor would give rise to related species.
      4. Darwin’s idea displaced the idea of static species and defined the order of life in favor of the idea of variation as a prominent characteristic of populations.
      5. Darwin collected his data in the 1830s and 1840s but did not write up his results until 1856.
      6. Alfred Russell Wallace contacted Darwin in 1858 with a set of ideas very similar to those Darwin had arrived at; both men independently talked about evolution by natural selection.
      7. Concerned that Wallace would gain sole credit for the idea, Darwin quickly finished writing On the Origin of Species, which was published in 1859.
    2. Since Darwin: Mechanisms of Inheritance, the Evolutionary Synthesis, and the Discovery of DNA
      1. Mechanisms of Inheritance
        1. After articulation of his theory of natural selection, Darwin turned to the question of how traits are passed from parent to offspring.
        2. Darwin was unaware of the research being conducted by Gregor Mendel in a monastery in the Czech Republic.
        3. Mendel’s experiments with pea plants led to the fundamentals of modern genetics.
          1. In his observation of the plants, Mendel concluded that a discrete physical unit was responsible for transmission of traits (now called a gene).
          2. Mendel also discovered that the traits in the pea plants did not blend. (Plants were either tall or short.) Alternate forms of a gene are now called alleles.
          3. Alleles are either dominant or recessive.
          4. The combination of the genes from each parent determines the trait expressed in the offspring.
        4. In 1908, Thomas Hunt Morgan repeated Mendel’s work with fruit flies.
          1. His team discovered that all genes are on chromosomes and that both genes and chromosomes are transmitted during reproductive cell division.
      2. The Evolutionary Synthesis, the Study of Populations, and the Causes of Evolution
        1. The combination of Darwin’s theory of evolution and Mendel’s theory of heredity is known as the modern synthesis and includes four causes of evolution.
          1. Population genetics tries to answer questions about why and how changes in the gene pool occur.
        2. Natural selection acts only on already existing genes.
        3. Mutation introduces new genetic material into the gene pool.
        4. Gene flow refers to the spread of genetic material from one population to another.
        5. Genetic drift is random chance in the frequency of alleles.
        6. The modern synthesis has unified all of biology and its affiliated fields.
      3. DNA: Discovery of the Molecular Basis of Evolution
        1. James Watson and Francis Crick published their discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953.
          1. Rosalind Franklin used a special technique to image the DNA double helix.
          2. DNA analysis has provided new insight into biological relationships between organisms and a molecular “clock” to study evolutionary change.
          3. DNA has also allowed science to study illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke.