Evolution - Biology

Evolution - Biology

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What is evolution?

In biology, evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations and relies on the process of natural selection.

  • The theory of evolution is based on the idea that all species are related and gradually change over time.
  • Evolution relies on there being genetic variation in a population which affects the physical characteristics (phenotype) of an organism.
  • Some of these characteristics may give the individual an advantage over other individuals which they can then pass on to their offspring.

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Evolution - Biology

An introduction to evolution

Leaves on trees change color and fall over several weeks. Mountain ranges erode over millions of years.
A genealogy illustrates change with inheritance over a small number of years. Over a large number of years, evolution produces tremendous diversity in forms of life.

Download this series of graphics from the Image library.

The definition
Biological evolution, simply put, is descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene &mdash or more precisely and technically, allele &mdash frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life.

The explanation
Biological evolution is not simply a matter of change over time. Lots of things change over time: trees lose their leaves, mountain ranges rise and erode, but they aren't examples of biological evolution because they don't involve descent through genetic inheritance.

The central idea of biological evolution is that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor, just as you and your cousins share a common grandmother.

Through the process of descent with modification, the common ancestor of life on Earth gave rise to the fantastic diversity that we see documented in the fossil record and around us today. Evolution means that we're all distant cousins: humans and oak trees, hummingbirds and whales.


Congratulations to the 22 recipients of the 2021 Graduate Research Excellence Grant - R. C. Lewontin Early Award!

Awarded in memory of George W. Gilchrist*:
Tais Ribeiro, University of Maryland. Advisor: Anahi Espindola

Philip Bentz, University of Georgia. Advisor: Jim Leebens-Mack
Austin Calhoun, Illinois State University. Advisor: Ben Sadd
Maria Colt, University of Maryland. Advisor: Heidi Fisher
Danielle De La Pascua, University of California Davis. Advisor: Jennifer Gremer
Erik Iverson, The University of Texas at Austin. Advisor: Justin Havird
Matthew Kelbrick, University of Liverpool. Advisor: Siobhán O&rsquoBrien
Laura Leventhal, Stanford University. Advisor: Moises Exposito-Alonso
Jasen Liu, University of California, Davis. Advisor: Santiago Ramírez
Meghan Maciejewski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Advisor: Alison Bell
Kelly Martin, University of Idaho. Advisor: Christine Parent
Kelly McCrum, University of Georgia. Advisor: Jill Anderson
Lisa Mesrop, University of California, Santa Barbara. Advisor: Todd Oakley
Kasey Pham, University of Florida. Advisor: Douglas Soltis
Raunak Sen, Cornell University. Advisor: Kerry Shaw
Rebecca Tarnopol, University of California - Berkeley. Advisor: Noah Whiteman
Colton Unger, University of Calgary. Advisor: Campbell Rolian
Veronica Urgiles Penafiel, Utah State University. Advisor: Molly Womack
Athmaja Viswanath, University of Toronto. Advisor: Asher Cutter
Emma Vtipilthorpe, North Carolina State University. Advisor: Seema Sheth
Gabrielle Welsh, University of Denver. Advisor: Robin Tinghitella
Xuening Zhang, Cornell University. Advisor: Anurag Agrawal

*This award was funded in part by donations to the George W. Gilchrist Student Support Fund.

2021 T. H. Huxley Award Winners

The SSE Education and Outreach Committee is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 T. H. Huxley Award , Dr. John Jungck and Dr. Sam Donovan . This award recognizes and promotes the development of high quality evolution education resources. Dr. Jungck and Dr. Donovan are recognized for their activity, "Beagle Investigations Return with Darwinian Data (BIRDD) project." In the activity, students engage in evolutionary problem solving and explore their own research questions using primary scientific data from the Galapagos Islands and Darwin&rsquos Finches. Read more here .

Evolution Highlight: Antibody-mediated crosslinking of gut bacteria

The Evolution Highlights series showcases some of the interesting and varied papers published within the last few years in Evolution . The goal of these Evolution Highlights is to let our readers learn more about how the highlighted study came into existence and to invite the authors to share stories and tips from the perspective of a recently published author. We welcome nominations and self-nominations for this series.

Evolution Highlight: Wild insect senescence

The Evolution Highlights series showcases some of the interesting and varied papers published within the last few years in Evolution . The goal of these Evolution Highlights is to let our readers learn more about how the highlighted study came into existence and to invite the authors to share stories and tips from the perspective of a recently published author. We welcome nominations and self-nominations for this series.

SSE Presidents' Award for Outstanding Dissertation Paper in Evolution Winner

2021 SSE Presidents&rsquo Award for Outstanding Dissertation Paper in Evolution

In this paper, Dr. Gabriel Jamie and co-authors investigated host-specific multimodal mimicry by nestlings of brood-parasitic Vidua indigobirds and whydahs to assess their role in adaptation to novel hosts. The premise was that imprinting of parasitic nestlings on their hosts promotes the maintenance of specialized host-parasite associations over generations. This exposes lineages to consistent selection from host species that could allow host-specific nestling adaptations to evolve. Over four rainy seasons in Zambia, Dr. Jamie and his research assistants recorded aspects of nestling morphology and behavior, and developed a new methodology to quantify phenotypes. Remarkable matching was found in the patterns and colors of the parasitic nestlings and the nestlings of their different host species, whose diverse appearances can be seen in the cover photo of the issue (74:11). The team also found matching in the sounds and postural movements of the nestlings. This study shows that imprinting can lead to the evolution of host-specific mimetic adaptations that can generate pre- and post-zygotic isolation and contribute to sympatric speciation. Dr. Jamie earned his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, where he is now a BBSRC-funded post-doctoral research associate. He is also a research associate of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town.

Dobzhansky Prize Winner and Honorable Mentions

2021 Dobzhansky Prize
Congratulations to the 2021 Dobzhansky Prize winner, Dr. Katja Kasimatis ! Dr. Kasimatis is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cutter and Rowe labs in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the evolutionary consequences of sex-specific selection and sexual conflict, specifically the impact on genome evolution. She pursues this research using a wide variety of approaches including molecular genetics, proteomics, genomics, bioinformatics, experimental evolution, and theoretical population genetics. Her work expands our understanding of sexual conflict and furthered nematodes as a model system for reproductive dynamics. While pursuing her research, she works to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community both within and beyond her department.

2021 Dobzhansky Prize Honorable Mentions
Congratulations to the 2021 Dobzhansky Prize Honorable Mentions, Dr. Rosana Zenil-Ferguson and Dr. Amanda Hund . Dr. Zenil-Ferguson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Her research focuses on evaluating the role of polyploidy across angiosperms through the development of stochastic models and statistical tools. While conducting her research, she focuses on promoting diversity and creating space for early career scientists within the macroevolution modeling field through mentorship and workshops. Dr. Hund is a JSMF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota and is starting as an Assistant Professor at Grinnell College next year. Her research focuses on understanding how parasites shape the evolution of their hosts, and has broad applications for understanding interactions between the environment and developmental processes. In her work, Dr. Hund focuses on promoting effective undergraduate mentorship through courses and research experiences.

2021 IDEA Award Recipient: Dr. Adriana Briscoe

Congratulations to Dr. Adriana Briscoe, recipient of the second annual ASN/SSE/SSB Inclusiveness, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Award . Over her entire career, Dr. Briscoe has shown a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that has resulted in the recruitment and retention of diverse scientists in the evolution workforce at all professional levels. Dr. Briscoe also contributes to international inclusion, regularly publishing research with co-authors from global south countries. Her DEI work also includes published scholarship and popular media related to her outreach. Dr. Briscoe has also been recognized for her research excellence and contributions to education by the largest STEM diversity organization in the country, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Thank you to Dr. Briscoe for your commitment and contributions to the community!

GSAC Application Deadline Extended

The SSE Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) is in search of three student members to serve in the 2022 cohort. The GSAC represents student and postdoc interests to the SSE Council and facilitates interaction among students and postdocs, and between students, postdocs, and mentors. Their goal is to be a source of information for students and postdocs during their graduate school career and as they make career transitions, and to provide an early-career perspective to the rest of the SSE council. GSAC members must be graduate students at the time of application, at least one year into their PhD program, and members of SSE. Applicants should be organized, possess leadership skills, and be interested in working with SSE council and members to contribute to the Society. We strongly encourage those with non-traditional pathways to graduate school, those from non-R1 universities, and those from outside the United States to apply. Learn more on the GSAC page and submit your application by April 22, 2021.

Story Collider at Virtual Evolution 2021

Story Collider is returning for Virtual Evolution 2021! This event will take place Thursday, June 24 at 7:00 PM EDT and will feature three people sharing true, personal stories about science on the theme &ldquoStories of 2020.&rdquo Continue reading to learn more about how to submit your story. Deadline: April 22, 2021.

Stories are powerful. Whether hilarious or heartbreaking, subversive or soothing, it matters who takes the stage and what stories are told. We want to hear yours!

On June 24, The Story Collider will host a very special virtual edition of our live show at Evolution 2021. We are searching for three people to share true, personal stories about science, on the theme "Stories of 2020." 2020 was the year (decade?) that just wouldn't end. We'd like to hear how the many events of 2020 (COVID, the national reckoning with racism, politics, wildfires, etc.) impacted your life and science.

If you&rsquod like to pitch us, all you need at this point is the seed of an idea for your story. It can be about almost anything: an important experiment, a rough day in the field, misadventure, love, loss, or more, but it must be about you. Our format does not include slides or props. It&rsquos not the place for lectures. It&rsquos about lived experiences. If you&rsquore selected for the show, experienced Story Collider producers will work with you for several weeks in advance to help you prepare. Send us your pitch here: The deadline for pitches has been extended to April 30, 2021. If you are curious or would like some inspiration, read more at or browse The Story Collider podcast archive at

Tri-society Statement Against AAPI Racism

The Society for the Study of Evolution, the American Society of Naturalists, and the Society of Systematic Biologists stand in solidarity with the many Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander communities and vehemently condemn these acts of domestic terror. To our Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander members: we support and respect you. We will continue the work of transforming our Societies into safe and inclusive places for you, and for all members of our communities.

The murders of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun, and Paul Andre Michels in the Atlanta area are symptoms of violent anti-Asian racism, which has only increased since the onset of the pandemic in the United States last year. These events are widespread. Across the country , Asian elders are being attacked in the streets with increasing frequency. Asian and Asian-American communities have been living with heightened anxiety and fear every day. Asian women in particular have been the targets of these violent and racist attacks. We are outraged seeing perpetrators of these hate crimes once again excused at the expense of their victims, enabling continuous xenophobic and racist violence in the U.S.

We call on our largely white membership to capitalize on their privilege to support their colleagues. We must deny comfort and complacency in the midst of oppression by engaging in self-reflection and active anti-racism. Be vocal and openly expose and reject racism, prejudice, and exclusion in all forms both inside and outside academic spaces. Please reach out to those you mentor and the students in your classes. Tell them you condemn these acts and share resources where they can get support . Work with your trainees to make your shared spaces safe and welcoming for people of Asian descent. Learn the history of U.S. anti-Asian policy, military occupation, and colonialism at the root of these issues. There are endless resources, but here is one place to start:

This violence is not external to our community and our scholarship. Some members of our community have been directly harmed, while others, also within our community, have caused some of this harm. There are numerous ways to practice effective allyship, and we include several useful resources below. If you want to learn more, you may be interested in following these Twitter accounts: ;@stopaapihate , ;@aapiwomenlead . Professional societies have a substantial role in making shared spaces welcoming and safe for all.

If you have been affected by violence and/or racist actions, please feel free to share your concerns and suggestions with our leadership. We need your input, feedback, and criticism to better support all of our scientists, especially those who have been actively excluded for so long. You can reach the society committees focusing on this work at these email addresses: , ,

Correction: An earlier version of this statement incorrectly stated the names of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, and Yong Ae Yue. We sincerely apologize for the error.

Newest 5 Comments

why have kids you can't afford to feed?
oohhh, that's right. someone else will bail you out!

I believe you know what I mean by my statement.

When I say that poor people are not animals, I mean to say that they are human beings, and should be treated as such. Give them the dignity to make choices.

You aptly demonstrate the superior attitude that I was criticizing, i.e., the notion that poor people are incapable of making conscious decisions because it's somehow part of their nature. This is an overtly racist assertion, since many of the world's poor are in third world countries, and are non-white.

To say that this is evolutionary and not socio-economic is implying that these non-white people are inherently flawed or at least operating on a lower level of humanity than others.

My first comment addressed how it is often a matter of women having no choice due to their status. It's society, not evolution. I'm not debating the existence of evolution I'm just saying this can't be argued on the same scale as evolution.

"Even poor people have the ability to think and make decisions for themselves. They're not animals."

We are all subject to the stressors in the environment as well as the chemical makeup of our genes. Yes, there is a large allowance for "personal choice," but if you think a person scrabbling for just enough food to stay alive has much if any choice about anything in their life, then you have never been truly hungry, my friend.

Evolutionary Biology

This section aims to yield an integrative and interdisciplinary view of evolution. Suitable research directions include molecular and mechanistic aspects of evolution as well as studies focusing on the evolutionary process, such as phylogenetic patterns and relationships. Conceptual, experimental and theoretical studies are equally appreciated as long as the central research direction is any aspect of evolution. Evolutionary hypotheses are welcome as long as they are based on the most rigorous scientific standards.

Why call it developmental bias when it is just development?

The concept of developmental constraints has been central to understand the role of development in morphological evolution. Developmental constraints are classically defined as biases imposed by development on.

Authors: Isaac Salazar-Ciudad

Citation: Biology Direct 2021 16 :3

Published on: 9 January 2021

The power of randomization by sex in multilocus genetic evolution

Many hypotheses have been proposed for how sexual reproduction may facilitate an increase in the population mean fitness, such as the Fisher-Muller theory, Muller’s ratchet and others. According to the recentl.

Authors: Liudmyla Vasylenko, Marcus W. Feldman and Adi Livnat

Citation: Biology Direct 2020 15 :26

Published on: 23 November 2020

Pathophysiology of Crohn’s disease inflammation and recurrence

Chron’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory intestinal disease, first described at the beginning of the last century. The disease is characterized by the alternation of periods of flares and remissions influence.

Authors: L. Petagna, A. Antonelli, C. Ganini, V. Bellato, M. Campanelli, A. Divizia, C. Efrati, M. Franceschilli, A. M. Guida, S. Ingallinella, F. Montagnese, B. Sensi, L. Siragusa and G. S. Sica

Citation: Biology Direct 2020 15 :23

Published on: 7 November 2020

Origin of the nuclear proteome on the basis of pre-existing nuclear localization signals in prokaryotic proteins

The origin of the selective nuclear protein import machinery, which consists of nuclear pore complexes and adaptor molecules interacting with the nuclear localization signals (NLSs) of cargo molecules, is one .

Authors: Olga M. Lisitsyna, Margarita A. Kurnaeva, Eugene A. Arifulin, Maria Y. Shubina, Yana R. Musinova, Andrey A. Mironov and Eugene V. Sheval

Citation: Biology Direct 2020 15 :9

Published on: 28 April 2020

Division of labour in a matrix, rather than phagocytosis or endosymbiosis, as a route for the origin of eukaryotic cells

Two apparently irreconcilable models dominate research into the origin of eukaryotes. In one model, amitochondrial proto-eukaryotes emerged autogenously from the last universal common ancestor of all cells. Pr.

Citation: Biology Direct 2020 15 :8

Published on: 28 April 2020

The archaeal-bacterial lipid divide, could a distinct lateral proton route hold the answer?

The archaea-bacteria lipid divide is one of the big evolutionary enigmas concerning these two domains of life. In short, bacterial membranes are made of fatty-acid esters whereas archaeal ones contain isopreno.

Citation: Biology Direct 2020 15 :7

Published on: 21 April 2020

More support for Earth’s massive microbiome

Until recently, our planet was thought to be home to

10 7 species, largely belonging to plants and animals. Despite being the most abundant organisms on Earth, the contribution of microbial life to global biodiv.

Authors: Jay T. Lennon and Kenneth J. Locey

Citation: Biology Direct 2020 15 :5

Published on: 4 March 2020

Retrotransposon gag-like 1 (RTL1) and the molecular evolution of self-targeting imprinted microRNAs

Transcription of the antisense strand of RTL1 produces a sense mRNA that is targeted for degradation by antisense microRNAs transcribed from the sense strand. Translation of the mRNA produces a retrotransposon-de.

Authors: Avantika Mainieri and David Haig

Citation: Biology Direct 2019 14 :18

Published on: 22 October 2019

Gene connectivity and enzyme evolution in the human metabolic network

Determining the factors involved in the likelihood of a gene being under adaptive selection is still a challenging goal in Evolutionary Biology. Here, we perform an evolutionary analysis of the human metabolic.

Authors: Begoña Dobon, Ludovica Montanucci, Juli Peretó, Jaume Bertranpetit and Hafid Laayouni

Citation: Biology Direct 2019 14 :17

Published on: 3 September 2019

Genome and pan-genome analysis to classify emerging bacteria

In the recent years, genomic and pan-genomic studies have become increasingly important. Culturomics allows to study human microbiota through the use of different culture conditions, coupled with a method of r.

Authors: Aurélia Caputo, Pierre-Edouard Fournier and Didier Raoult

Citation: Biology Direct 2019 14 :5

Published on: 26 February 2019

From tumors to species: a SCANDAL hypothesis

Some tumor cells can evolve into transmissible parasites. Notable examples include the Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease, the canine transmissible venereal tumor and transmissible cancers of mollusks. We pr.

Authors: A. Y. Panchin, V. V. Aleoshin and Y. V. Panchin

Citation: Biology Direct 2019 14 :3

Published on: 23 January 2019

Exon skipping-rich transcriptomes of animals reflect the significance of exon-shuffling in metazoan proteome evolution

Animals are known to have higher rates of exon skipping than other eukaryotes. In a recent study, Grau-Bové et al. (Genome Biology 19:135, 2018) have used RNA-seq data across 65 eukaryotic species to investiga.

Citation: Biology Direct 2019 14 :2

Published on: 16 January 2019

Response to Martin and colleagues: mitochondria do not boost the bioenergetic capacity of eukaryotic cells

A recent paper by (Gerlitz et al., Biol Direct 13:21, 2018) questions the validity of the data underlying prior analyses on the bioenergetics capacities of cells, and continues to promote the idea that the mit.

Authors: Michael Lynch and Georgi K. Marinov

Citation: Biology Direct 2018 13 :26

Published on: 29 November 2018

The Comment to this article has been published in Biology Direct 2018 13:21

Darwinian selection of host and bacteria supports emergence of Lamarckian-like adaptation of the system as a whole

The relatively fast selection of symbiotic bacteria within hosts and the potential transmission of these bacteria across generations of hosts raise the question of whether interactions between host and bacteri.

Authors: Dino Osmanovic, David A. Kessler, Yitzhak Rabin and Yoav Soen

Citation: Biology Direct 2018 13 :24

Published on: 26 October 2018

Elusive data underlying debate at the prokaryote-eukaryote divide

The origin of eukaryotic cells was an important transition in evolution. The factors underlying the origin and evolutionary success of the eukaryote lineage are still discussed. One camp argues that mitochondr.

Authors: Marie Gerlitz, Michael Knopp, Nils Kapust, Joana C. Xavier and William F. Martin

Citation: Biology Direct 2018 13 :21

Published on: 3 October 2018

The Commentary to this article has been published in Biology Direct 2018 13:26

Inevitability of the emergence and persistence of genetic parasites caused by evolutionary instability of parasite-free states

Genetic parasites, including viruses and mobile genetic elements, are ubiquitous among cellular life forms, and moreover, are the most abundant biological entities on earth that harbor the bulk of the genetic .

Authors: Eugene V. Koonin, Yuri I. Wolf and Mikhail I. Katsnelson

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :31

Published on: 4 December 2017

Domestication of self-splicing introns during eukaryogenesis: the rise of the complex spliceosomal machinery

The spliceosome is a eukaryote-specific complex that is essential for the removal of introns from pre-mRNA. It consists of five small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs) and over a hundred proteins, making it one of the mos.

Authors: Julian Vosseberg and Berend Snel

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :30

Published on: 1 December 2017

Sugar Lego: gene composition of bacterial carbohydrate metabolism genomic loci

Bacterial carbohydrate metabolism is extremely diverse, since carbohydrates serve as a major energy source and are involved in a variety of cellular processes. Bacterial genes belonging to same metabolic pathw.

Authors: Anna Kaznadzey, Pavel Shelyakin and Mikhail S. Gelfand

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :28

Published on: 25 November 2017

Cellular origin of the viral capsid-like bacterial microcompartments

Bacterial microcompartments (BMC) are proteinaceous organelles that structurally resemble viral capsids, but encapsulate enzymes that perform various specialized biochemical reactions in the cell cytoplasm. Th.

Authors: Mart Krupovic and Eugene V. Koonin

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :25

Content type: Discovery notes

Published on: 13 November 2017

Breath-giving cooperation: critical review of origin of mitochondria hypotheses

The origin of mitochondria is a unique and hard evolutionary problem, embedded within the origin of eukaryotes. The puzzle is challenging due to the egalitarian nature of the transition where lower-level units.

Authors: István Zachar and Eörs Szathmáry

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :19

Published on: 14 August 2017

Bacterial tail anchors can target to the mitochondrial outer membrane

During the generation and evolution of the eukaryotic cell, a proteobacterial endosymbiont was re-fashioned into the mitochondrion, an organelle that appears to have been present in the ancestor of all present.

Authors: Güleycan Lutfullahoğlu-Bal, Abdurrahman Keskin, Ayşe Bengisu Seferoğlu and Cory D. Dunn

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :16

Published on: 24 July 2017

Demystification of animal symmetry: symmetry is a response to mechanical forces

Symmetry is an eye-catching feature of animal body plans, yet its causes are not well enough understood. The evolution of animal form is mainly due to changes in gene regulatory networks (GRNs). Based on theor.

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :11

Adaptive multiscapes: an up-to-date metaphor to visualize molecular adaptation

Wright’s metaphor of the fitness landscape has shaped and conditioned our view of the adaptation of populations for almost a century. Since its inception, and including criticism raised by Wright himself, the .

Authors: Pablo Catalán, Clemente F. Arias, Jose A. Cuesta and Susanna Manrubia

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :7

Published on: 28 February 2017

Evolution of RNA- and DNA-guided antivirus defense systems in prokaryotes and eukaryotes: common ancestry vs convergence

Complementarity between nucleic acid molecules is central to biological information transfer processes. Apart from the basal processes of replication, transcription and translation, complementarity is also emp.

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :5

Published on: 10 February 2017

Identification of positive selection in genes is greatly improved by using experimentally informed site-specific models

Sites of positive selection are identified by comparing observed evolutionary patterns to those expected under a null model for evolution in the absence of such selection. For protein-coding genes, the most co.

Citation: Biology Direct 2017 12 :1

Published on: 17 January 2017

Expansion of the molecular and morphological diversity of Acanthamoebidae (Centramoebida, Amoebozoa) and identification of a novel life cycle type within the group

Acanthamoebidae is a “family” level amoebozoan group composed of the genera Acanthamoeba, Protacanthamoeba, and very recently Luapeleamoeba. This clade of amoebozoans has received considerable attention from the .

Authors: Alexander K. Tice, Lora L. Shadwick, Anna Maria Fiore-Donno, Stefan Geisen, Seungho Kang, Gabriel A. Schuler, Frederick W. Spiegel, Katherine A. Wilkinson, Michael Bonkowski, Kenneth Dumack, Daniel J. G. Lahr, Eckhard Voelcker, Steffen Clauß, Junling Zhang and Matthew W. Brown

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :69

Published on: 28 December 2016

Long range personalized cancer treatment strategies incorporating evolutionary dynamics

Current cancer precision medicine strategies match therapies to static consensus molecular properties of an individual’s cancer, thus determining the next therapeutic maneuver. These strategies typically maint.

Authors: Chen-Hsiang Yeang and Robert A. Beckman

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :56

Published on: 22 October 2016

Evolution of the Tim17 protein family

The Tim17 family of proteins plays a fundamental role in the biogenesis of mitochondria. Three Tim17 family proteins, Tim17, Tim22, and Tim23, are the central components of the widely conserved multi-subunit p.

Authors: Vojtěch Žárský and Pavel Doležal

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :54

Published on: 19 October 2016

Cancer heterogeneity and multilayer spatial evolutionary games

Evolutionary game theory (EGT) has been widely used to simulate tumour processes. In almost all studies on EGT models analysis is limited to two or three phenotypes. Our model contains four main phenotypes. Mo.

Authors: Andrzej Świerniak and Michał Krześlak

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :53

Published on: 13 October 2016

The essence of life

Although biology has achieved great successes in recent years, we have not got a clear idea on “what is life?” Actually, as explained here, the main reason for this situation is that there are two completely d.

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :49

Published on: 26 September 2016

Profuse evolutionary diversification and speciation on volcanic islands: transposon instability and amplification bursts explain the genetic paradox

Species-rich adaptive radiations arising from rare plant and animal colonizers are common on remote volcanic archipelagoes. However, they present a paradox. The severe genetic bottleneck of founder events and .

Authors: Elysse M. Craddock

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :44

Published on: 6 September 2016

Unity and disunity in evolutionary sciences: process-based analogies open common research avenues for biology and linguistics

For a long time biologists and linguists have been noticing surprising similarities between the evolution of life forms and languages. Most of the proposed analogies have been rejected. Some, however, have per.

Authors: Johann-Mattis List, Jananan Sylvestre Pathmanathan, Philippe Lopez and Eric Bapteste

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :39

Published on: 20 August 2016

Compartmentalization in PVC super-phylum: evolution and impact

The PVC super-phylum gathers bacteria from seven phyla (Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobiae, Chlamydiae, Lentisphaera, Poribacteria, OP3, WWE2) presenting different lifestyles, cell plans and environments. Planctomy.

Authors: Sandrine Pinos, Pierre Pontarotti, Didier Raoult, Jean Pierre Baudoin and Isabelle Pagnier

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :38

Published on: 9 August 2016

The multiple evolutionary origins of the eukaryotic N-glycosylation pathway

The N-glycosylation is an essential protein modification taking place in the membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in eukaryotes and the plasma membranes in archaea. It shares mechanistic similarities based.

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :36

Published on: 4 August 2016

Alpha proteobacterial ancestry of the [Fe-Fe]-hydrogenases in anaerobic eukaryotes

Eukaryogenesis, a major transition in evolution of life, originated from the symbiogenic fusion of an archaea with a metabolically versatile bacterium. By general consensus, the latter organism belonged to α p.

Authors: Mauro Degli Esposti, Diego Cortez, Luis Lozano, Simon Rasmussen, Henrik Bjørn Nielsen and Esperanza Martinez Romero

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :34

Content type: Discovery notes

Published on: 30 July 2016

Selection on metabolic pathway function in the presence of mutation-selection-drift balance leads to rate-limiting steps that are not evolutionarily stable

While commonly assumed in the biochemistry community that the control of metabolic pathways is thought to be critical to cellular function, it is unclear if metabolic pathways generally have evolutionarily sta.

Authors: Alena Orlenko, Ashley I. Teufel, Peter B. Chi and David A. Liberles

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :31

Evolutionary consequences of polyploidy in prokaryotes and the origin of mitosis and meiosis

The origin of eukaryote-specific traits such as mitosis and sexual reproduction remains disputable. There is growing evidence that both mitosis and eukaryotic sex (i.e., the alternation of syngamy and meiosis).

Authors: Alexander V. Markov and Ilya S. Kaznacheev

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :28

Infinitely long branches and an informal test of common ancestry

The evidence for universal common ancestry (UCA) is vast and persuasive. A phylogenetic test has been proposed for quantifying its odds against independently originated sequences based on the comparison betwee.

Authors: Leonardo de Oliveira Martins and David Posada

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :19

Published on: 7 April 2016

The Columbian Exchange as a source of adaptive introgression in human populations

The term “Columbian Exchange” refers to the massive transfer of life between the Afro-Eurasian and American hemispheres that was precipitated by Columbus’ voyage to the New World. The Columbian Exchange is wid.

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :17

Published on: 2 April 2016

Viroids: “living fossils” of primordial RNAs?

The discovery of the viroid in 1971, which initiated the third major expansion of the biosphere towards smaller living entities—after discovery of the “subvisual” microorganisms in 1675 and that of the “submic.

Citation: Biology Direct 2016 11 :15

Published on: 25 March 2016

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Evolution - Biology

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Examples of Convergent Evolution

Convergent Evolution of Wings

A widespread example of convergent evolution is the evolution of wings and powered flight in birds, bats and (now extinct) pterosaurs, each of which belong to a different class of organism and therefore have very distant common ancestors.

Fossil evidence has determined that flight evolved in pterosaurs (flying reptiles of the late Triassic period) around 225mya and in birds around 150mya, while mammalian bats evolved wings around 50-60mya. The evolution of powered flight has only happened once in each of these lineages, although there are certain organisms, for example, ostrich birds, which have subsequently reverted back to being flightless while retaining their wing structures.

The different wing structures of birds, bats and pterosaurs are each supported by a modified five-fingered limb. Each limb consists of a humerus a radius and ulna, a thumb and finger bones, and is a homologous structure, containing the same bones that make up the limbs of many animals including humans, whales and crocodiles however, the shape of each bone differs greatly between each form.

An elongated fourth finger shapes the pterosaur wing, with the other digits used as claws. In birds, an elongated radius and ulna, as well as finger bones fused together for strength, support the wing. Finally, the wings of a bat differ in that they are formed of membrane that is stretched over four elongated fingers. The reason each of these different bone formations results in the same eventual wing shape is due to the basic physics of flight: wings that were shaped much differently would not allow an animal to fly.

Although birds and pterosaurs share a very distant common ancestor, and birds also share a common ancestor with bats, none of these ancestors had wings or were able to fly. In each of these lineages, the wing is therefore an analogous structure because the bones have been arranged differently in order to independently achieve a functionally similar structure.

The image above shows the different internal bone structures of wings in: 1) Reptilian pterosaurs (Pterosauria). 2) Mammalian bats (Chiroptera). 3) Birds (Aves).

Convergent Evolution between Placental Mammals and Marsupials

Placental mammals, which have offspring that undergo gestation within the uterus and are born fairly advanced, and marsupials whose offspring are born very immature and continue to develop within a pouch on the mother’s body, diverged from a common ancestor around 100 million years ago.

Separated by the split of continents, mammals evolved to occupy niches in Europe, Africa and America, while marsupials occupied similar niches in Australia and the surrounding islands this history has produced many examples of convergent evolution.

Animals from each group developed similar analogous structures depending on factors such as their habitat, feeding habits and locomotion requirements.

Burrowing animals evolved into the mole and the marsupial mole, which have similar body shapes, claws for digging and lack efficient eyesight.

The Thylacine (now extinct) filled the same niche as the wolf: an apex predator with sharp teeth, powerful jaws and speed for successful hunting.

Placental Flying Squirrels, and marsupial Sugar Gliders both evolved from the same flightless, common ancestor which split around 65 million years ago. These two animals are extremely similar in appearance and behavior they are approximately the same size, they have large eyes for foraging in the dark, they are coated with soft fur, and have light underbellies.

Through convergent evolution, they have also both evolved structures that enable them to glide between the treetops where they live. The wing-like structures are made of skin, which is stretched between the forelimb and hind limb, and do not enable powered flight. Nonetheless, it is theorized that these may be analogous structures that appear as a precursor to flight.

The images show the skin stretched between the limbs of a Sugar Glider and a Flying Squirrel, evolved to allow gliding motion.

Some Other Examples of Convergent Evolution

  • The evolution of complex eyes in vertebrates, cephalopods (squid and octopus) and arthropods (crustaceans, insects and spiders).
  • Streamlined body shape of dolphins, sharks and (extinct) ichthyosaurs.
  • The evolution of echolocation in whales and bats.
  • The paired shell shape of bivalve mollusks and brachiopods.
  • The silk producing ability of spiders, silk worms, silk moths and weaver ants.
  • The long structures (tongues and beaks) evolved for collecting nectar in hummingbirds, bees, moths and butterflies.
  • The evolution of eyespots on the wings of butterflies and the tails of fish.
  • Spines on the bodies of echidnas (monotremes), hedgehogs (mammals) and porcupines (rodents).
  • Filter feeding in many whales (such as humpback and baleen), sharks (such as whale sharks and basking sharks) and manta rays.
  • The evolution of the woody stem in seed plants, horsetails and trees.
  • The reef building abilities of many sea life organisms such as corals, sponges, cnidarians and bacteria.


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