Darwinian Evolution and other Evolutionary Processes

  1. What were the prevailing theories concerning the history of living organisms on this planet prior to Darwin?  Who was Lamarck and how did his theories on the mechanisms of evolution of living organisms differ from Darwin’s?
  2. Who were Charles Lyell, and Alfred R. Wallace?  How did each of these men influence Darwin in the development of his ideas concerning evolution?  How might Gregor Mendel's findings have influenced the develoment of Darwin's ideas on evolution?
  3. What do we mean by evolution?  According to Darwin, what is the driving force behind evolution (i.e. what causes organisms to evolve?)  What observations and inferences did Darwin make that led him to this theory of evolution by natural selection?
  4. What do we mean when we say that “it is populations of organisms that evolve, not individuals, however, natural selection acts directly upon individuals.”  What do we mean by the following terms fitness, adaptation, phylogeny, artificial selection.
  5. Be familiar with the types of evidence that support the evolution of life (i.e. biogeographical, paleontological, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, molecular).  Be sure you understand how this evidence supports the evolution organisms over time.   Be familiar with some of the documentedexamples of natural selection at work. 
  6. What is wrong with the statement that is often made by those less informed than yourselves: “Well, you know that evolution is just a theory”?
  7. What is a mutation?  What are some of the characteristics of mutations?  How is variation in organisms generated?  What is the source of new alleles in a population?
  8. What is the source of the majority of the phenotypic variation from one generation to the next in most organisms?  How is variation preserved in populations. Why doesn’t natural selection extinguish a population’s variability by culling unfavorable genotypes (you should be able to give several reasons)?
  9. Describe the three modes of selection (stabilizing, directional, diversifying) acting on populations.
  10. What is sexual selection?   Be familiar with some examples of sexual selection.  How are evolutionary outcomes a compromise between sexual selection and natural selection?
  11. Does natural selection fashion perfect organisms?  Explain.