Portal:Evolutionary biology

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The Evolutionary Biology Portal

Introduction

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Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the diversity of life on Earth. In the 1930s, the discipline of evolutionary biology emerged through what Julian Huxley called the modern synthesis of understanding, from previously unrelated fields of biological research, such as genetics and ecology, systematics, and paleontology.

The investigational range of current research widened to encompass the genetic architecture of adaptation, molecular evolution, and the different forces that contribute to evolution, such as sexual selection, genetic drift, and biogeography. Moreover, the newer field of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo") investigates how embryogenesis, the development of the embryo, is controlled, thus yielding a wider synthesis that integrates developmental biology with the fields of study covered by the earlier evolutionary synthesis. (Full article...)

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Sexual reproduction is an adaptive feature which is common to almost all multi-cellular organisms (and also some single-cellular organisms) with many being incapable of reproducing asexually. Prior to the advent of sexual reproduction, the adaptation process whereby genes would change from one generation to the next (genetic mutation) happened very slowly and randomly. Sex evolved as an extremely efficient mechanism for producing variation, and this had the major advantage of enabling organisms to adapt to changing environments. Sex did, however, come with a cost. In reproducing asexually, no time nor energy needs to be expended in choosing a mate. And if the environment has not changed, then there may be little reason for variation, as the organism may already be well adapted. Sex, however, has evolved as the most prolific means of species branching into the tree of life. Diversification into the phylogenetic tree happens much more rapidly via sexual reproduction than it does by way of asexual reproduction.

Evolution of sexual reproduction describes how sexually reproducing animals, plants, fungi and protists could have evolved from a common ancestor that was a single-celled eukaryotic species. Sexual reproduction is widespread in the Eukarya, though a few eukaryotic species have secondarily lost the ability to reproduce sexually, such as Bdelloidea, and some plants and animals routinely reproduce asexually (by apomixis and parthenogenesis) without entirely having lost sex. The evolution of sex contains two related yet distinct themes: its origin and its maintenance. (Full article...)

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