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. Simply, it is also defined as the study of the history of life forms on Earth. Evolution is based on the theory that all species are related and they gradually change over time. In a population, the genetic variations affect the physical characteristics i.e. phenotypes of an organism. These changes in the phenotypes will be an advantage to some organisms, which will then be passed onto their offspring. Some examples of evolution in species over many generations are the Peppered Moth and Flightless birds. 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 importance of studying Evolutionary biology is mainly to understand the principles behind the origin and extinction of species.

The investigational range of current research has 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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A comparison of RNA (left) with DNA (right), showing the helices and nucleobases each employs

The RNA world is a hypothetical stage in the evolutionary history of life on Earth, in which self-replicating RNA molecules proliferated before the evolution of DNA and proteins. The term also refers to the hypothesis that posits the existence of this stage.

Alexander Rich first proposed the concept of the RNA world in 1962, and Walter Gilbert coined the term in 1986. Alternative chemical paths to life have been proposed, and RNA-based life may not have been the first life to exist. Even so, the evidence for an RNA world is strong enough that the hypothesis has gained wide acceptance. The concurrent formation of all four RNA building blocks further strengthened the hypothesis. Regardless of its plausibility in a prebiotic scenario, the RNA world can serve as a model system for studying the origin of life. (Full article...)

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