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Over time, successive mutations created the relationship we observe today. Given the right circumstances, and enough time, evolution leads to the emergence of new species. Scientists have struggled to find a precise and all-inclusive definition of species. Ernst Mayr defined a species as a population or group of populations whose members have the potential to interbreed naturally with one another to produce viable, fertile offspring.

The members of a species cannot produce viable, fertile offspring with members of other species. Speciation is the lineage-splitting event that results in two separate species forming from a single common ancestral population. Allopatric speciation begins when a population becomes geographically separated.

Introduction to evolution

For speciation to occur, separation must be substantial, so that genetic exchange between the two populations is completely disrupted. In their separate environments, the genetically isolated groups follow their own unique evolutionary pathways.

Each group will accumulate different mutations as well as be subjected to different selective pressures. The accumulated genetic changes may result in separated populations that can no longer interbreed if they are reunited. If interbreeding is no longer possible, then they will be considered different species. Usually the process of speciation is slow, occurring over very long time spans; thus direct observations within human life-spans are rare. However speciation has been observed in present-day organisms, and past speciation events are recorded in fossils.

These fish have complex mating rituals and a variety of colorations; the slight modifications introduced in the new species have changed the mate selection process and the five forms that arose could not be convinced to interbreed. The theory of evolution is widely accepted among the scientific community, serving to link the diverse speciality areas of biology. The significance of evolutionary theory is summarised by Theodosius Dobzhansky as " nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

There is much discussion within the scientific community concerning the mechanisms behind the evolutionary process. For example, the rate at which evolution occurs is still under discussion. In addition, there are conflicting opinions as to which is the primary unit of evolutionary change—the organism or the gene. Darwin and his contemporaries viewed evolution as a slow and gradual process. Evolutionary trees are based on the idea that profound differences in species are the result of many small changes that accumulate over long periods. Gradualism had its basis in the works of the geologists James Hutton and Charles Lyell.

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Hutton's view suggests that profound geological change was the cumulative product of a relatively slow continuing operation of processes which can still be seen in operation today, as opposed to catastrophism which promoted the idea that sudden changes had causes which can no longer be seen at work.

A uniformitarian perspective was adopted for biological changes. Such a view can seem to contradict the fossil record, which often shows evidence of new species appearing suddenly, then persisting in that form for long periods. In the s palaeontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould developed a theoretical model that suggests that evolution, although a slow process in human terms, undergoes periods of relatively rapid change ranging between 50, and , years [80] alternating with long periods of relative stability.

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Their theory is called punctuated equilibrium and explains the fossil record without contradicting Darwin's ideas. A common unit of selection in evolution is the organism. Natural selection occurs when the reproductive success of an individual is improved or reduced by an inherited characteristic, and reproductive success is measured by the number of an individual's surviving offspring.

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The organism view has been challenged by a variety of biologists as well as philosophers. Richard Dawkins proposes that much insight can be gained if we look at evolution from the gene's point of view; that is, that natural selection operates as an evolutionary mechanism on genes as well as organisms.

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Others view selection working on many levels, not just at a single level of organism or gene; for example, Stephen Jay Gould called for a hierarchical perspective on selection. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A non-technical overview of the subject of biological evolution. This article is a non-technical introduction to the subject. For the main encyclopedia article, see Evolution. Darwin's finches by John Gould.

Introduction to evolution - Wikipedia

Key topics. Introduction to evolution Evidence of evolution Common descent Evidence of common descent. Processes and outcomes.

  1. Introduction to evolution - Wikipedia.
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  6. Natural history. History of evolutionary theory. Fields and applications. Applications of evolution Biosocial criminology Ecological genetics Evolutionary aesthetics Evolutionary anthropology Evolutionary computation Evolutionary ecology Evolutionary economics Evolutionary epistemology Evolutionary ethics Evolutionary game theory Evolutionary linguistics Evolutionary medicine Evolutionary neuroscience Evolutionary physiology Evolutionary psychology Experimental evolution Phylogenetics Paleontology Selective breeding Speciation experiments Sociobiology Systematics Universal Darwinism.

    Social implications. Evolution as fact and theory Social effects Creation—evolution controversy Objections to evolution Level of support. Main article: Natural selection. Further information: Genetic drift. Further information: Modern synthesis 20th century. Further information: Evidence of common descent. Further information: Convergent evolution and Divergent evolution. Main article: Coevolution. Main article: Speciation. Biology portal Evolutionary biology portal Science portal. Abiogenesis Creation—evolution controversy Evidence of common descent Evolution as fact and theory Human timeline Level of support for evolution Misconceptions about evolution Nature timeline.

    United States Geological Survey. July 9, Retrieved Earth and Planetary Science Letters. William ; Kudryavtsev, Anatoliy B. October 5, Precambrian Research. Bibcode : PreR.. William June 29, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Understanding Evolution. University of California, Berkeley.