Evolution is the gradual development of organisms from simple form to more complex forms over a long duration of time. Evolution is marked by emergence of new species from pre-existing species and the disappearance of some species. The species that disappear are said to become extinct.
Key terms used in organic evolution
Carbon dating: This is a method of estimating the ages of dead materials of biological origin.
Natural Selection: This is selective force occurring in nature, which is responsible for eliminating the unfavourable traits to retain only favourable traits in the population.
Specie: These are organisms, which have ability to interbreed freely to produce fertile off springs.
Fossils: These are the remains of organisms that lived in the past, preserved naturally in rocks, peat or ice.
Importance of Studying Evolution
It helps to understand the biological forces that cause organisms to develop from simple to more complex organisms to the extent of new species emerging
It helps to know how different organisms relate
Theories of the Origin of Life
The basic ideas about the origin of life
Outline the basic ideas about the origin of life
The origin and diversity of life is based on the contribution of theologists, philosophers and scientists. Early scientists put forward theories, which suggested that life originated from non-living matter. However changes in climatic conditions, habitats and complexity of living organisms contradicts these suggestions.
Modern scientists put both theories, which suggest that the origin and diversity of life was brought about by the process of evolution. Two of the most well known of evolution scientists are:
Jean Baptiste Lamarck
Sir Charles Darwin
The theories of the Origin of Life
State the theories of the origin of life
There are numerous theories of evolution that try to explain the origin of living things. The main theories of the origin of life are:
Theory of Special Creation
Theory of Chemical Evolution
Theory of Spontaneous Generation
Steady State Theory
The Theory of Special Creation
According to this theory life was non-existent before a particular time. Then the Supreme Being (Supernatural power) created all living things and there was life on Earth from then henceforth.
This theory proposes that differences and similarities between organisms are as a result of how the organisms were created. Major religions like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism have theories that support special creation. The theory of fixed status and catastrophism was put forth by Cuvier to support the religious point of view. According to Curvier, fossils were brought about by catastrophes such as floods as outlined in the holy bible. During the floods the earth’s surface was deformed and many creatures were killed and covered by a mass of land.
The Theory of Chemical Evolution
According to this theory, about 13.7 billion years ago, a cosmic explosion occurred and the universe has since been expanding and cooling. Before the explosion, the earth was very compact, dense and hot.
The formation of the universe created condition like high ultraviolet radiation and high temperatures. The gaseous composition was different from todays. The universe cooled and protons combined with electrons to form hydrogen atoms, which were the first atoms to be formed.
Hydrogen combined chemically with other elements to form compounds such as water, hydrogen is present in almost all organic compounds.
This theory was advanced by Alexander Oparin in 1923, he stated that in the beginning the atmosphere contained ammonia, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen and methane but lacked oxygen. The compound was a result of high temperature, ultraviolet radiation and electrical discharge that were plentiful after cosmic explosion.
The compounds were dissolving in rainwater to form nutrient both (a mixture of organic compound in water that accumulated in the water bodies on the earth’s surface). The simple compounds combined to form complex substances, using energy from the high temperature and ultraviolet rays later polymers such as proteins lipids and carbohydrates were formed. The first single-celled organism arose from these polymers.
The formation of ribonucleic acid (RNA) a self-replicating molecule was a pre-requisite to life as the form could replicate itself. Living organisms could reproduce themselves. The first life forms were heterotrophic using the compound in the nutrient broth as food. The organisms reproduced by budding
The Theory of Spontaneous Generation
Aristotle advanced the theory of spontaneous generation and it dates back to the 4th Century. The theory was applied up to the 19th Century but it is no longer applied. The scientists believed that simple organisms like worms and frogs could arise from mud, dust or rotten food. That means life can originate from non-living matter e.g. maggots can arise from rotten meat.
The Steady State Theory
This theory was popular during the 1950s and 1960s, before its demise in the late 1960s. According to these theory the universe has always existed and has no origin that is it did not have a moment of creation this life has no origin
Also this theory states that or suggests that life on earth originated from elsewhere. In eighteenth century scientists questioned these steady state and Cosmozoan theories due to the presence of fossils and emergence of new species.
Theories of Organic Evolution , Lamarckism
Lamarck’s theory of Evolution
State lamarck’s theory of evolution
Darwin was not the only person to develop a theory of evolution. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was a French scientist who developed an alternative theory at the beginning of the 19th century. His theory centred on two ideas:
the law of use and disuse
the law of inheritance of acquired characteristics
His theory stipulated that a characteristic which is used more and more by an organism becomes bigger and stronger. One that is not used disappears eventually. Any characteristic of an organism that is improved through use is passed to its offspring.
Lamarck’s Observations and Deductions
Explain lamarck’s observations and deductions
Jean Baptiste Lamarck was a French naturalist. Lamarck formulated a theory on evolution after studying botany and the fossils of marine invertebrates.
He used the law of use and disuse which explains that organism enhanced certain abilities by exercising them and lost other abilities through disuse example the ancestors of the present day long necked giraffe. These early giraffes fed on short plants when the short plants became scarce the giraffe had to stretch their necks to feed on taller plants. Thus their necks became longer. The longer necks were passed onto their offspring hence after a long time giraffe developed the long necks they have today.
His theory was based on inheritance of acquired characteristics the offspring then adapt further, advancing evolution of the species.
Merits and Demerits of Lamarck’s Theory of Evolution
Outline merits and demerits of lamarck’s theory of evolution
The Merits of Lamarck’s Theory of Evolution include:
Lamarck theory lead to further studies on evolution of species
It gave rise to discovery of genes and genetics which is now widely used in many fields of biology
Upon rejection of his theory Lamarck decided to study about invertebrates which made great contribution in development of Zoology
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
State Darwin’s theory of evolution
Charles Robert Darwin (1809 – 1882) was an English naturalist. He based his theory on observation made during a five-year geographical study.
Darwin’s main observations were:
Every generation of organisms have more off springs than parents. However, the number of adult organisms remains generally stable from generation to generation. Therefore is a struggle for existence that causes many off spring to die before becoming adults
There are many variations in a species. Variations are passed from parents to their off spring. Advantageous variations enable survival in the environment organism with disadvantageous variation due. This is called survival of the fittest.
Off springs with favourable variations grow into adults and reproduce therefore favourable variations accumulated in the species; enabling adaptation to the environment, this gives rise to new specie.
A change in the environmental conditions favours other characteristics of the organisms. The effect of these changes on the organisms is that other features become more prominent than before resulting in evolution.
Merits of Darwin’s theory
The theory enabled scientists to carry further studies, leading to new discoveries that suggest the origin of life
Helped scientists to understand about drug resistance and evolution of germs like bacteria and viruses leading to new strains
Enable further research to find cure or vaccines of germs, bacteria and viruses
Shortcoming of Darwin’s Theory:He failed to explain how variations in populations arose and were maintained from one generation to the next.
Evidences and application of Organic Evolution in the Real Life Situation
Investigate evidences and application of organic evolution in the real life situation
Scientists can prove that evolution has taken place by various methods. Some of these methods are
Comparative anatomy: Comparative anatomy is the study of biological structures in different organisms. The scientists look at structures that are similar in different organisms or species. Example limbs of vertebrates such as human beings, goats and wings of birds are used for different purposes but they have a basic design structure, this is known as homologous structure. Example fore limbs of humans are for manipulation, fore limbs of birds (wings) are for flight and fore limbs of a goat are for walking; this shows that all these animals are from common ancestors. Analogous structures are the ones, which look different, but they perform similar functions e.g. insect, birds and bats all have wings used for flight but they have different structural organization.
Fossil records: Fossils are remains of organisms that lived in the past preserved naturally in rocks or on ice. The study of fossils is known as paleontology when fossils are dated scientists can estimate the age of that organism. Method used by scientists to know the age of fossils is carbon dating using isotope of Carbon 14.
Embryology: In comparative embryology embryos of different vertebrates at early stages are compared and they are seen to have resemblances. Species that show similar embryonic development are assumed to be closely related although the adult may be quite different
Natural Selection in Action: Nature led to the selection of a genetic combination that resulted in a more frequent melanic variety compared to the non-melanic variety. Before the industrial revolution in Europe the white variety of moth was more prevalent. Industrialization in Europe in the 18th Century polluted the environment, burning of coal released a lot of soot and smoke. These pollutants coated tree trunks, killing the lichens that grew on the tree trunks. The colour of the tree trunks became black; this camouflaged the dark melanin form of the peppered moth. The predators of the moth did not feed on many dark moths because they were not very visible.
Evidence from vestigial organs: These are structures, which have been greatly reduced and ceased to be functional. Presence of vestigial organs is an indication that they existed in ancestral forms but as a result of evolution such structures have been so much reduced to the extent of loosing or greatly changing their original function. Examples of vestigial structures are wings of flightless birds such as ostriches and penguins.