Andrea J. Alveshere, Ph.D., Western Illinois University
- Describe the history and contributions of the Modern Synthesis.
- Define populations and population genetics as well as the methods used to study them.
- Identify the forces of evolution and become familiar with examples of each.
- Discuss the evolutionary significance of mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, and natural selection.
- Explain how allele frequencies can be used to study evolution as it happens.
- Contrast micro- and macroevolution.
It’s hard for us, with our typical human life spans of less than 100 years, to imagine all the way back, 3.8 billion years ago, to the origins of life. Scientists still study and debate how life came into being and whether it originated on Earth or in some other region of the universe (including some scientists who believe that studying evolution can reveal the complex processes that were set in motion by God or a higher power). What we do know is that a living single-celled organism was present on Earth during the early stages of our planet’s existence. This organism had the potential to reproduce by making copies of itself, just like bacteria, many amoebae, and our own living cells today. In fact, with today’s genetic and genomic technologies, we can now trace genetic lineages, or phylogenies, and determine the relationships between all of today’s living organisms—eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi, etc.), archaea, and bacteria—on the branches of the phylogenetic tree of life (Figure 4.1).
Looking at the common sequences in modern genomes, we can even make educated guesses about what the genetic sequence of the first organism, or universal ancestor of all living things, would likely have been. Through a wondrous series of mechanisms and events, that first single-celled organism gave rise to the rich diversity of species that fill the lands, seas, and skies of our planet. This chapter explores the mechanisms by which that amazing transformation occurred and considers some of the crucial scientific experiments that shaped our current understanding of the evolutionary process.
About the Author
Western Illinois University, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.wiu.edu/cas/anthropology/faculty-staff/alveshere.php
Dr. Andrea Alveshere is an assistant professor of anthropology and chemistry at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on relationships between humans and their environments, including questions of diet and health; cultural and biological adaptations; genetic disorders such as Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1); effects of environmental factors on the preservation of bones, plant remains, and the molecules within them; and the comparative utility of various field and laboratory techniques to produce informative archaeological, nutritional, and forensic data.
Dr. Alveshere earned her B.A. in anthropology at the University of Washington with an emphasis in archaeology and an undergraduate research focus on the analysis of skeletal remains and geoarchaeological deposits. At the University of Minnesota, she completed her Ph.D. in anthropology, with a minor in human genetics. Her graduate thesis investigated factors that influence the preservation and detection of DNA in ancient and forensic specimens.
In addition to her academic experience, Dr. Alveshere worked for several years as a forensic scientist in the DNA/Biology section of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Forensic Science Laboratory. She leads the WIU Archaeological Field School, which is offered every other summer, and has also conducted archaeological excavations in Israel, South Africa, and throughout the Midwestern United States.
For Further Exploration
Explore Evolution. HHMI’s Biointeractive. https://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/evolution-collection
Teaching Evolution Through Human Examples. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. http://humanorigins.si.edu/education/teaching-evolution-through-human-examples
Bloomfield, Gareth, David Traynor, Sophia P. Sander, Douwe M. Veltman, Justin A. Pachebat, and Robert R. Kay. 2015. “Neurofibromin Controls Macropinocytosis and Phagocytosis in Dictyostelium.” eLife 4:e04940.
Castle, W. E., and J. C. Phillips. 1914. Piebald Rats and Selection: An Experimental Test of the Effectiveness of Selection and of the Theory of Gametic Purity in Mendelian Crosses. Carnegie Institute of Washington, No. 195. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institute of Washington.
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Darwin, Charles. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray.
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Many thanks to Dr. Vincent M. Riccardi for sharing his vast knowledge of neurofibromatosis and for encouraging me to explore it from an anthropological perspective.
Figure 4.1 Tree of life SVG by Ivica Letunic: Iletunic, retraced by Mariana Ruiz Villarreal: LadyofHats, has been designated to the public domain (CC0). This item has been modified (made grayscale, rotated, labels added).
Figure 4.2A Lamarckian Evolution original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.2B Modern Synthesis original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.3 Weismann’s mouse-tail experiment original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.4 Castle’s Hooded Rat Experiment original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.5 Morgan’s Mutant Fruit Flies original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.6 UV-induced Thymine dimer mutation original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.7 Cytosine-to-thymine point mutation original to An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.8 Point and frameshift mutations original to An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.10a Man with plexiform neurofibroma (syptom of NF1) is used by permission from Ashok Shrestha and available here is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.10b Childhood photo of the same man with NF1 disorder is used by permission from Ashok Shrestha and available here is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.11 Child with café-au-lait macules (birthmarks) typical of the earliest symptoms of NF1 by Andrea J. Alveshere is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.12 The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.13 6 Finger by Wilhelmy is under a CC BY-SA 4.0 License.
Figure 4.14 Ladybug Gene Flow original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.15 Peppered moths c2 by Khaydock is under a CC BY-SA 3.0 License.
Figure 4.17 Sickle-cell smear 2015-09-10 by Paulo Henrique Orlandi Mourao, contrast modified and labels added by Katie Nelson, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Figure 4.18 Peacock tail advantage and disadvantages soriginal to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.19 Isolation Leading to Speciation original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.20 Darwin’s finches original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Figure 4.21 Ladybug mix original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.