Evolution, what is evolution? Evolution is the process by which different kinds of organisms have changed and adapted from their earlier forms. Evolution relates so closely to biology because biology is the study of life and evolution is how living organisms have adapted to the environment. My goal for this paper is to explore evolution in mammals, the basic theory of evolution, beliefs of evolution, the main contributors of evolution, evolution in humans, evolution in monkeys, things that humans lost from evolution, as well as extinctions. I became interested in this topic because it hard for me to think at one time humans had tails, or that some species of ape’s DNA is very similar to ours.
Darwin ‘s theory of evolution states that all life is related in one way or another. He explains this by saying that due to random gene mutations form more advanced organisms from their simplistic counterpart. This feeds into the second half of his theory. This part of the theory is natural selection, or survival of the fittest. When the random gene mutations occur they sometimes form attributes that aid the survival of the organism, and it builds from there until completely new organisms are made.
Charles Darwin is one of the main contributing scientists to the theory of evolution. Darwin developed this theory when he went on his five year voyage around the world. When he arrived at the Galapagos islands he noticed a difference between the same species of bird from island to island. The finches had different beaks for their environment. some had curved beaks while others had straight pointy beaks so. This adaptation occurred because of the type of food the finches were trying to eat. For example the ones that had beaks suited for eating cactus survive in arid climates, which means they passed of their traits to the offspring. (“Early Theories of Evolution: Darwin and Natural Selection”)
Darwin’s isn’t believed to be true by everyone. The three main beliefs held by people regarding to evolution are creation science, theistic evolution, and scientific. Creation science is the belief that god created the universe in a period of six days less than 10,000 years ago. Theistic evolution is the belief that god created the first cell and god used evolution to guide this process to create new organisms. The last belief is the scientific one. This was Darwin’s belief that evolution was driven by naturally occurring differences in the offspring and natural selection picked the favorable traits (Robinson).
Human evolution is why we are the way we are today, but humans were not always like they are today. In fact humans were slowing genetically mutating into what we are today millions of years ago. Humans share a common ancestor that lived between 8 and 6 million years ago. These common ancestors are chimpanzees and gorillas. However the fossils for the first humans are a bit younger that their ancestors. These fossils date back between 6 and 2 million years ago in africa. One of the earliest of human traits known as bipedalism, the ability to walk on two legs, was evolved around 4 million years ago. It is believed by many scientists that there could have been as many as 20 different types of humans (“Introduction to Human Evolution”). The three most recent species Homo neanderthalensis, homo floresiensis, and homo erectus are all thought to have lived 2 million to 100,000 years ago.
Monkeys are thought to share common ancestors with humans, yet they have a different story. No one knows how long monkeys have been on earth but what they do know is that it has been millions of years. It is believed that part of monkeys evolution is the ability to adapt to the environment that they are in. For example, some monkeys have the ability to problem solve. This problem solving included the monkeys ability to realise that the environment that they are living in currently is unable to support their life. The monkeys would make changes by moving and eating different foods. Other monkeys have learned how to swim across bodies of water to find food (“Monkey Evolution”).
There are multiple things that humans lost completely or lost the use for from evolution things that include a tail, large amounts of body hair, and wisdom teeth. There are a couple of theories as to why humans lost their body hair. the first theory is that we lost our body hair because we went through an aquatic phase. The reason that we would loose hair is because hair would cause drag in water and therefore would hinder our ability to swim quickly. Another theory as to why humans lost their hair was to keep humans cool when they left the african jungle and traveled across the desert. However, Dr. Mark Pagel and Dr. Walter Bodmer have proposed that we lost the majority of our body hair because it attracts thinks like fleas, lice, and other parasites (Wade).
A long time ago humans believe it or not had tails, but now all we have a tail bone which is just a vestigial. No one really knows the answer to why humans have lost their tails but there are a few theories that could explain this. One theory is that once humans became bipedal they lost the need for a tail to do things such as grab things, balance, or brushing away bugs. Another theory is that when humans became bipedal the tail became a hindrance to survival as it was easily grabbed by predators (“UCSB Science Line”).
Wisdom teeth are considered to be another vestigial leftover from evolution. Researchers believe that these third set of molars were very useful for our ancestors. Wisdom teeth were an adaptation gained from evolution when diets consisted of of rough food, foods like roots, leaves, nuts, and meat. Softer foods and modern technologies like forks and spoons negated the need for these teeth and that I why people usually get them removed (Cooper).
Extinction plays a very large role in evolution. Extinction occurs when the last species of a plant or animal dies off due to natural causes or human interactions. It is believed “By some estimates, over 99% of the species that have ever lived have gone extinct” (Venema). When a mass extinction occurs it opens up the opportunity for a new species to thrive in an environment that nothing else could. An example of a mass extinction that occurred happened at the end of the permian. During this extinction event it is believed that thousands of years of volcanic activity raised the CO2 level so quickly that the species alive couldn ‘t adapt in time and resulted in a mass extinction (Venema).
Evolution has played a very important part in ours lives. without it we may still have tails, or we may not even be here today. From our primate ancestors to the several mass extinctions it is evident that evolution is and always will be important.
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