Chapter 1: An Introduction to Evolutionary Biology What is evolution? Any change in the heritable traits within a population across generations. Evolution does not happen within a single generation. Development is not evolution. It is the process of descent with modification that is responsible for the origin, maintenance, and diversity of life. Why is evolutWe also discuss several other topics like nas105
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ion important? It provides an explanation for the diversity of life on the planet. A way to explain the similarities and differences among all organisms, living and dead. With evolution as its theoretical and conceptual foundation, the biological sciences share a common framework that allows us to understand both the commonalities and differences among living forms; it allows us to make sense of the way that living things function now and to understand how they came to be. What are some applications of evolution? Conservation: Evolution provides context for developing appropriate conservation strategies. One possibility in how evolutionary thinking might affect conservation biology is that by understanding how natural selection has shaped traits in species we are trying to preserve, we can make inferences about the condition of the environment in which these species evolved and use such inferences to create a modern environment in which our targeted species can thrive. Another possibility is that by thinking about rate of evolution, we can estimate whether any particular species will be able to adapt sufficiently rapidly to keep up with the effects of global climate change. Origins: Evolution accounts for the appearance of humans and reveals our species’ biological connections with other living things. The tree of life provides us with a map of the history of life, a map that reflects the process of descent with modification that gave rise to all living forms. It connects evolutionary history to the current diversity of life on Earth. Public Heath: Studying evolution enables the development of effective new ways to protect ourselves against constantly evolving pathogens. Antibiotics impose very strong natural selection for resistant strains. For all these reasons, bacteria can evolve extremely rapidly and when they are exposed to antibiotics, this is precisely what they do. Food Production: Evolution by artificial selection led to domestication of the plants and animals that we use today for food. The process of humandirected selective breeding, known as artificial selection, in which humans choose which individuals reproduce, and in doing so, we select traits that are in some way beneficial to us. In the case of crops, in each generation the best plants—for example, those that are the hardiest, quickest growing, and best tasting—are chose as the parental stock for the next generation. Forensics: Evolutionary analyses are used in court as evidence in rape, murder, and other cases. How do scientists study evolution? Empirical work in evolutionary biology can take many forms, but it almost always falls under one of the two categories: observations or manipulations. Observational work entails gathering data to test hypotheses without attempting to manipulate or control the system being studied. Examples include (1) studying the fossil record to test predictions from evolutionary biology, as well as to generate new predictions ;(2)inferring evolutionary history from genetic sequences. Another approach is to design controlled manipulative experiments to test a hypothesis. Manipulative experiments allow a scientist directly to assess how changes in one component of a system influence the other components. This allows us to examine not only correlations among data but also causality; that is, what causes what. Ideally, manipulative experiments alter only one variable at a time, so that the investigator can ascertain which changed yield what results. In evolutionary biology, theory plays an important role in shaping and furthering the research agenda of the field. Theoretical biology often, but not always, involved creating mathematical models of biological systems. Models help us understand how complicated systems work. It does it by making assumptions that allow us to focus on only the critical details of a system, so we can understand how that system operates. One of the most common uses of models is to make predictions and plan for the future.