Portal:Evolutionary biology

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The Evolutionary Biology Portal

Introduction

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Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the diversity of life on Earth. It is also defined as the study of the history of life forms on Earth. Evolution holds that all species are related and gradually change over generations. In a population, the genetic variations affect the phenotypes (physical characteristics) of an organism. These changes in the phenotypes will be an advantage to some organisms, which will then be passed onto their offspring. Some examples of evolution in species over many generations are the peppered moth and flightless birds. In the 1930s, the discipline of evolutionary biology emerged through what Julian Huxley called the modern synthesis of understanding, from previously unrelated fields of biological research, such as genetics and ecology, systematics, and paleontology.

The investigational range of current research has widened to encompass the genetic architecture of adaptation (the constant adjusting to the ever growing world around us), molecular evolution, and the different forces that contribute to evolution, such as sexual selection, genetic drift, and biogeography. Moreover, the newer field of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo") investigates how embryogenesis (the development of the embryo) is controlled, thus yielding a wider synthesis that integrates developmental biology with the fields of study covered by the earlier evolutionary synthesis. (Full article...)

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Painting of Hugo de Vries, making a painting of an evening primrose, the plant which had apparently produced new forms by large mutations in his experiments, by Thérèse Schwartze, 1918

Mutationism is one of several alternatives to evolution by natural selection that have existed both before and after the publication of Charles Darwin's 1859 book On the Origin of Species. In the theory, mutation was the source of novelty, creating new forms and new species, potentially instantaneously, in sudden jumps. This was envisaged as driving evolution, which was thought to be limited by the supply of mutations.

Before Darwin, biologists commonly believed in saltationism, the possibility of large evolutionary jumps, including immediate speciation. For example, in 1822 Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire argued that species could be formed by sudden transformations, or what would later be called macromutation. Darwin opposed saltation, insisting on gradualism in evolution as geology's uniformitarianism. In 1864, Albert von Kölliker revived Geoffroy's theory. In 1901 the geneticist Hugo de Vries gave the name "mutation" to seemingly new forms that suddenly arose in his experiments on the evening primrose Oenothera lamarckiana. In the first decade of the 20th century, mutationism, or as de Vries named it mutationstheorie, became a rival to Darwinism supported for a while by geneticists including William Bateson, Thomas Hunt Morgan, and Reginald Punnett. (Full article...)

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The following are images from various evolutionary biology-related articles on Wikipedia.

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Tyrannosaurus rex
Credit: Commons:User:David Monniaux

Tyrannosaurus rex skull at Palais de la Découverte in Paris.

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