18.1: Evolution and Adaptation

In 1859 the English naturalist Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. The book contained two major arguments : First, Darwin presented a wealth of evidence of development. He said that all living things on ground today are the descendants – with modifications – of earlier species. Second, he proposed a mechanism – natural selection – to explain how development takes seat .
development involves two relate phenomena : adaptation and speciation. In adaptation, over the course of clock time, species modify their phenotypes in ways that permit them to succeed in their environment. In speciation, over the course of time, the number of species multiplies ; that is, a single species can give rise to two or more descendant species. In fact, Darwin maintained that all species are related ; that is, any two species on earth today have shared a common ancestor at some point in their history .

Natural Selection

  • Living things produce more offspring than the finite resources available to them can support.
  • Thus living things face a constant struggle for existence.
  • The individuals in a population vary in their phenotypes.
  • Some of this variation is inheritable; that is, it is a reflection of variations in genotype.
  • Those variants best adapted to the conditions of their life are most likely to survive and reproduce themselves (“survival of the fittest”).
  • To the extent that their adaptations are inheritable, they will be passed on to their offspring.

The forces of natural choice act on phenotypes, but only if there is a change in the genotypes of a population has evolution occurred.

The Measure of “Fitness”

fitness is a measuring stick of generative success. Those individuals who leave the largest number of mature offspring are the fittest. This can be achieved in respective ways :

  • Survival (mortality selection)
  • Mating success (sexual selection)
  • Family size (fecundity selection)


Any trait that promotes survival – at least until one ‘s generative years are over – increases fitness. such traits are adaptations .

Sexual Selection

In sexual excerpt, one sex – normally the female – chooses among the available males. Any inherit trait that improves the felt success of sealed individuals will become more marked in succeeding generations. Some examples :

  • When ready to mate, female three-spined sticklebacks (fish) choose males with many Class II MHC alleles over males with fewer alleles. Class II alleles encode the proteins that present antigens to the immune system. Presumably, the more of them you have, the greater the diversity of parasite antigens your immune system can recognize and defend against.The females distinguish between the males by soluble molecules (“odors”) the males release into the water. How these “odors” are controlled by the MHC alleles is not known.
  • A culture of Drosophila set up with equal numbers of red-eyed and white-eyed flies of both sexes will, after 25 generations or so, end up having only red-eyed (the “normal”) flies in it. This despite the fact that white-eyed flies are just as healthy and live just as long as red-eyed flies, i.e., they are equal in terms of survival. But, as it turns out, not only do red-eyed females prefer red-eyed males, but white-eyed females do also.

In other cases of intimate excerpt, one phenotype prefers to mate with others of the lapp phenotype. This is called assortative match .

Fecundity Selection

The output of a boastfully number of mature young is a measure of fitness. I stress ripe because alone they can pass these traits on to another generation. Some ways to do this :

  • Earlier breeding. If some females become sexually mature earlier than others, their chances of leaving offspring are enhanced.
  • For some species (e.g., fish, oysters), which provide little or no care for their young, fitness is measured by the number of fertilized eggs they produce.
  • For species (such as ourselves) that take care of their young, selection acts to reduce family size (to a point). A large study in Utah (U.S.A) showed that in the 19th century, families with fewer children had more surviving grandchildren.

All the forces of natural survival outlined above work on individuals. But there is an increasing body of evidence that natural selection can besides act on groups. Natural choice that appears to work counter to the profit of some individuals while enhancing the prospects of their relatives is called akin survival. It is discussed on a separate page .

Are Humans Exempt from Natural Selection?

It has been argued that advances in music, sanitation, etc. have removed humans from the rigors of natural survival. There is credibly some truth to this, but consider that of all the human eggs that are fertilized, fewer than one-half will ever reproduce themselves. The others are eliminated as follows :

  • Mortality selection
    • Approximately 30% of pregnancies end by spontaneous abortion of embryos and fetuses or by stillbirth.
    • Death in infancy and childhood claims another 5% or more.
  • Sexual selection
    • Another 20% will survive to adulthood but never marry.
  • Fecundity selection
    • Of those that do marry, 10% will have no children.

Continuous Variation

Most traits in a population such as stature and body weight vary in a continuous means from one extreme point to the early .
altFigure 18.1.1 Distribution of trait in population
A plot of the distribution of the trait in a population frequently produces a bell-shaped curve like this matchless that shows the distribution of heights among a group of male secondary-school seniors. Such a distribution could arise from environmental factors – possibly the continuous height variation in the boys is just a consequence of mutant in their diet as they grew up or familial factors – grandiloquent parents tend to have tall children or – most likely – both .


One can sort out the relative contribution of familial and environmental factors by comparing the range of a trait in the offspring compared with the modal prize of that trait in their parents. If the young of selected parents occupy the lapp range as the entire population, environmental factors are working alone. The trait has a nothing heritability. case : The duration of the seeds of a pure song of beans may vary over several millimeters. however, if extra-large beans are mated, the new craw shows no fault to a larger size. So the heritability of length is zero. On the early bridge player, if the offspring of two extra-large mice are equitable vitamin a large as they are, genes are probably at exercise. The trait is said to have a heritability of 1.

altFigure 18.1.2 Heritability

The Effects of Selection on Populations

The pressures of natural selection can affect the distribution of phenotypes in a population in several ways .
altFigure 18.1.3 Effects of selection on population

Stabilizing Selection

natural excerpt often works to weed out individuals at both extremes of a range of phenotypes resulting in the generative success of those near the intend. In such cases, the consequence is to maintain the condition quo. It is not always comfortable to see why both extremes should be handicapped ; possibly sexual survival or liability to depredation is at exploit. In any event, stabilizing choice is coarse. In humans, for example, the incidence of baby deathrate is higher for very fleshy angstrom well as for very light babies .

Directional Selection

A population may find itself in circumstances where individuals occupying one extreme in the range of phenotypes are favored over the others. Since 1973, Peter and Rosemary Grant – aided by a succession of colleagues – have studied Darwin ‘s finches in the Galapagos Islands. When rain, and therefore food, are plentiful, the ground finches tend to have a deviate diet, for example, corrode seeds of a range of sizes and show considerable variation in body and beak size ( large beaks are better for large seeds but can handle little seeds equally well as little beaks ) .
altFigure 18.1.4 Geo fortis
From 1976 through 1977, a austere drought struck the islands, with about no rain for over a year. This caused a hasty worsen in the production of the seeds that are the dietary pillar of Geospiza fortis, the medium ground finch. The graph ( from P. T. Boag and P. R. Grant in Science 214:82, 1981 ) shows how the population declined from 1400 to 200 on the island of Daphne Major, a bantam ( 10-acre = 4 hectares ) member of the Galapagos Islands .
One of the plants to make it through the drought produces seeds in large, bad fruits that are virtually impossible for birds with a beak smaller than 10.5 millimeter to eat. Sampling the birds that died a well as those that survived showed that he larger birds were favored over the smaller ones and Those with larger beaks were favored over those with smaller ones .

Beak length (mm) Beak depth (mm)
Dead birds 10.68 9.42
Survivors 11.07 9.96

here, then was natural choice at work. But did it produce development ? The answer turned out to be yes. As the population of G. fortis recovered after the rains returned, the average soundbox size and beak depth of their young was greater than earlier ( an increase of 4–5 % for beak depth ). The bell-shaped curve had been shifted to the good — directional choice .
More recently, the Grants and colleagues at Harvard Medical School have shown that

  • beak width and depth in the ground finches are correlated with the timing and intensity of expression of the gene, Bmp4, (that encodes bone morphogenetic protein-4) in the tissue that will form the upper beak. Bmp4 expression appears earlier in development and with greater intensity in the large-beaked Geospiza magnirostris (the large ground finch) than in its smaller-beaked relatives, Geospiza fortis (the medium ground finch) and Geospiza fuliginosa (the small ground finch). See Abzhanov, A., et al., Science, 3 September 2004.
  • However, beak length is correlated with the intensity of expression of the gene CaM that encodes the Ca2+-binding protein calmodulin in the tissue that will form the upper beak. CaM expression is much higher in the embryonic tissue of the cactus finches (G. scandens and G. conirostris – both with long beaks) than in their short-beaked relatives, the ground finches G. fortis and G. magnirostris. (See Abzhanov, A., et al., Nature, 3 August 2006.)

Industrial Melanism

many species of moths in the british Isles began to become dark in color in the nineteenth century. The best-studied example is the pepper moth, Biston betularia. The moth gets its name from the scatter black markings on its wings and body. In 1849, a coal-black mutant was found near Manchester, England. Within a century, this black mannequin had increased to 90 % of the population in this region. The moth flies at night and rests by sidereal day on tree trunks. In areas far from industrial natural process, the trunks of trees are encrusted with lichens. As the photograph show, the ignite form ( circled in crimson ) is practically invisible against this background .
altFigure 18.1.5 Peppered Moth
In areas where air travel befoulment is severe, the combination of toxic gases and carbon black has killed the lichens and blackened the trunks. Against such a background, the light form stands out aggressively. The moth is preyed upon by birds that pluck it from its resting place by day. In contaminated woods, the dark form has a much better prospect of surviving undetected. When the English geneticist H. B. D. Kettlewell ( who supplied the photograph ) released moths of both types in the woods, he observed that birds did, indeed, eat a much higher divide of the light moths he released than of the iniquity. Since befoulment abatement programs were put in locate after World War II, the ignite imprint has been making a rejoinder in the Liverpool and Manchester areas .

Disruptive Selection

In some circumstances, individuals at both extremes of a image of phenotypes are favored over those in the middle. This is called disruptive excerpt .
An model :
The residues ( “ tailings ” ) of mines frequently contain such high concentrations of toxic metals ( for example, bull, lead ) that most plants are unable to grow on them. however, some hardy species ( e.g. certain grasses ) are able to spread from the surrounding uncontaminated land onto such waste heaps. These plants develop resistance to the toxic metals while their ability to grow on uncontaminated dirty decreases. Because grasses are wind pollinated, breeding between the insubordinate and nonresistant populations goes on. But obviously, disruptive survival is at workplace. Higher death rates of both less insubordinate plants growing on contaminated dirty and more resistant plants growing on uncontaminated dirt leads to increasing deviation of the populations into two subpopulations with the extreme manifestations of this trait.

The evolutionary significance of disruptive choice lies in the hypothesis that the gene pool may become rip into two discrete gene pools. This may be a way in which raw species are formed. The formation of one or more species from a single harbinger species is called speciation .

Contributors and Attributions

  • John W. Kimball. This content is distributed under a creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported ( CC BY 3.0 ) license and made possible by funding from The Saylor Foundation .
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