An Ecological Perspective (BIOL 346) Talk Three: Evolution Evolution • “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution”…… – Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973) • In the U.S. alone, 25 - 40% of Americans either deny the theory of evolution of think that evidence for it is lacking. • Main reason for denying this theory • Religious Beliefs Evolution • Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) - “on the origin of species by means of natural selection.” • The work of Darwin is about adaptation of a species to the environment in which it exists. • It does NOT explain the history of the universe or how the Earth formed. Evolution • Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) - “on the origin of species by means of natural selection.” • Had two main hypotheses. – Branching descent – living species come from a species that lived in earlier times. This explains common inheritance. – Natural selection – explains that parents with genotypes that favor survival and reproduction leave more offspring than other parents. Therefore, these genetic traits become dominant in a given population. • Both of these hypotheses have been tested thousands of times without being falsified. Galapagos Islands • On the Galapagos Islands Galapagos Islands Darwin found a very limited assortment of animals • No native mammals or amphibians were present. • Found several species of large tortoises, a species of crab-eating lizards, and land birds • These birds were made up of a dozen of closely related species Galapagos Islands • Each cluster of these birds lived on one or only a few of these islands. • The tortoises also differed from island to island – even though the climate between islands was very similar. • Hypothesized that each species cluster had arisen through a series of modifications from a single species that had originally colonized the islands. Galapagos Islands Figure 5.2 Darwin concluded that the Galapagos had received its animal colonized from South America – the nearest continent from the islands. Determined that geographical proximity is more important than climate or other environmental variables in influencing which species occurred in a particular place. Natural Selection • • • • • Variation in population Variation inheritable Some individuals survive and reproduce better than others Survival and reproduction are tied to variation in traits among individuals (nonrandom) Therefore, these genetic traits become dominant in a given population. Mimicry • One species of organism deceptively resembles another. – The Viceroy is actually closely related to butterfly A • The Monarch is poisonous to Blue jays • The Viceroy isn’t poisonous, but has the same colorings as the Monarch – so Blue jays do not eat the Viceroys. Industrial Melanism • Powerful demonstration of natural selection. • Darker colored peppered moths were discovered in areas of the UK with high levels of pollution. – Known as melanic moths • First found in 1890s at the height of the industrial revolution. Remember genetic mutation? • Either a single nucleotide substitution or an addition or a deletion in the genetic material controlling moth skin color occurred – Altered the open reading frame – May be caused by the pollution itself • The result was an ever increasing population of black peppered moths in certain areas. Central Dogma of Molecular Biology • DNA holds the code • DNA makes RNA • RNA makes Protein • If pollution altered the genetic material of peppered moths, then the protein product (skin color) would be altered! Industrial Melanism • Pollution blackened the trees and killed the lichens the peppered moths feed on. – And affected the moths – Lichen: symbiotic associations of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner. • Moths were camouflaged to predators and population increased in polluted areas. • As I said – A powerful demonstration of natural selection. Industrial Melanism • Laws to control smokestack emissions and other forms of pollutants are now being enforced. • The lichens have returned to the previously polluted trees. • Moths in these areas have returned to their original colorings – Again, natural selection The pattern Figure of branching descent. 5.1 Species in the top row are descended from the ancestors below. Red circle – the common ancestor to all other circles. Red square - the common ancestor to all other squares. Red hexagonal – ancestral to ALL species In a classification – all squares in one group and circles in another Branching Descent • Darwin explained this hierarchy as the natural result of branching descent with modification. • A process that produces the similarities and differences that biologists have used in classifying organisms. Evidence for Branching Descent • Homologies: The construction of family trees in based on shared similarities and gene sequences. • Darwin noted the similarities of forearms in mammals. • Darwin wondered on why mammals have the same bones in the same relative positions. • All had a ratio of bones from five (fingers) to two (lower “arm” –radius and ulna) to one (upper “arm” -humerus). Evidence for Branching Descent • Convergence – Similarities that result from common ancestry should also be similar at a smaller level of detail. – Should grow from the same source tissue • Convergence is an evolutionary phenomenon in which similar adaptations evolve independently in lineages not closely related. • Bat wings are similar in structure to whale flippers, the human arm and the front legs of all mammals. Evidence for Branching Descent • One frequent test of the hypothesis of branching descent is to identify a group of organisms that share some particular character. • Structures arose from modification of the same type of repeated part. • Crustaceans mouthparts and legs are derived from a common set of leg-like appendages. – Vestigial structures – Structures whose function have been lost in the course of evolution diminish in size. – Ie – coccyx – human tail bone • • Evidence for Branching Descent Cephalopods - group of mollusks that have beak-like jaws at the front of the mouth and a muscular part (foot) subdivided into a series of tentacles. When these feel threatened they release “ink” – hides the animal and propels it backwards – allows it to escape. • All members of this group have the same escape mechanism – Therefore, same characteristics. Post - Darwin • Steven Jay Gould : • Punctuated Equilibrium – Species remain static for long periods of time and then changes abruptly. • The new species begins as a small isolated population on the geographic periphery of the original species. • The small size of the isolated population allows it to undergo rapid change – Therefore producing a new species • Once new species becomes successful, overcomes original species and the original species becomes extinct. Hutchinson JR, et al. (2011) From flat foot to fat foot: Structure, ontogeny, function and evolution of elephant "sixth toes." Science, 334, 1699-1703 • This CT scan reveals the sixth "toe" here seen in dark green towards the back on the elephant's foot • For more than 300 years, the structure has puzzled researchers, but this study suggests that it helps to support elephants' colossal weight. • The structure was made of bone, although bone with a highly irregular and unusual arrangement. • Closer examination also revealed that it showed a strong similarity with an unusual bone that is found in the front feet of pandas. Hutchinson JR, et al. (2011) From flat foot to fat foot: Structure, ontogeny, function and evolution of elephant "sixth toes." Science, 334, 1699-1703 • This bone - which is not quite an extra digit, but does the job of one - helps the panda to grip bamboo, and is called the panda's "thumb" or "sixth finger". • Moles too have a bone masquerading as an extra digit, which helps them to dig. • For elephants, the structure serves a simple purpose: it helps the hefty animals to stand up. • Unlike pandas and moles, which only have the false digit in their front feet, elephants have the bone in all four of their feet. Hutchinson JR, et al. (2011) From flat foot to fat foot: Structure, ontogeny, function and evolution of elephant "sixth toes." Science, 334, 1699-1703 • Their five conventional toes point forwards, giving elephants a tip-toed stance- • BUT – the extra "toe" points backwards into the heel pad, adding extra support and helping the heaviest land animal to hold up its bulk. • To find out when and why this strange bone appeared, the researchers examined elephant fossils • The first elephants appeared around 55 million years ago Hutchinson JR, et al. (2011) From flat foot to fat foot: Structure, ontogeny, function and evolution of elephant "sixth toes." Science, 334, 1699-1703 • Early elephants had a different kind of foot, which seemed to be quite flat footed and didn't leave much room for this structure underneath. • The structure seemed to evolved around 40 million years ago, and it seems to have evolved in concert with elephants getting bigger and more terrestrial and having upright feet, with a more tip-toed foot posture • great example of how evolution tinkers and tweaks tissue to provide different functions - in this case to be coopted to be used like a digit Evolutionary diagram showing how elephant foot form and posture evolved (copyright Julia Molnar, 2011) Unifying theme in biology • Underlying the diversity of life is a striking unity, especially at the lower levels of structure. • Evolution accounts for this combination of unity and diversity – REMEMBER the universal genetic language of DNA Natural selection Current definition: Change in genetic composition of a population over time Ancestral population Time Envt Fitness Divergent populations Natural selection Natural environment “chooses” animals that reproduce e Thousands to millions of years of natural selection Ancestral canine Artificial selection Breeder chooses animals that will reproduce Hundreds to thousands of years of selective breeding Ancestral dog Natural selection Examples of natural selection and evolution in action today? Tuberculosis and Antibiotic resistance Using Evolution to understand HIV AIDS • Why do drug treatments not work in the long run? • Why are some people resistant to HIV? • Where did HIV come from? • Will there be an AIDS vaccine? Why are some AIDS drugs ineffective now? • High mutation rate = Variation • High reproductive rate • Mutants that avoid AZT replicate most • Natural selection Why is it so difficult to design an AIDS vaccine? • Natural selection – Mutation – Variation – Selection pressures • Transmission from other hosts Application of principles of natural selection creationism • Bible-based creationists – Use a biblical account of creation – Reject any scientific account that conflicts with scripture • Intelligent-design creationists – Work within the framework of science to find evidence of design in nature – State that biological systems are so complex that only an intelligent (and benevolent) designer could have made them. • Theistic evolutionists – Believe that God created the universe and all life – Evolution is in fact Gods creative process and part of the plan. Misconceptions • Scientists disagree about whether evolution has occurred Scientists argue about HOW evolution occurs but they agree that evolution does occur. Misconceptions Evolution as a theory is incomplete or flawed. Evolution is the only well-supported explanation for the diversity of life and there have been no credible challenges to evolution. Modifications to some of Darwin’s original ideas have changed e.g., evolution occurs faster, genetic mutations are sources of variation Misconceptions • If you accept evolution, you cannot be a religious person •Evolution and religion are not incompatible. •Most Christian and Jewish religions have no problem with evolution. •Many religions believe that a better understanding of the natural world enriches one’s faith. •Not all scientists are atheists. I’m cool with Theistic Evolution Summary • Must understand the nature of science to understand evolution. • Evolution does occur and is observable. • Natural selection can happen over short time periods. • Study of evolution is important and applicable to medicine and many other disciplines. The End. Any Questions?