Concepts of Biology (BIOL115) - Dr. S.G. Saupe (; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321

Evolution Primer:  Study Guide

Nothing in biology makes sense  except in the light of evolution.

Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973

I.  Paradigms
          A.  The nature of a paradigm
          B.  Paradigms die hard
          C.  Evolutionary paradigms:  old and new

II.  Evolution - the biological paradigm
          A.  Evolution explains the unity and diversity of life
          B.  Evolution unifies biological observations into a coherent whole

III. The evolution of evolution.  Some early evidence

A.  Taxonomy
B.  Comparative anatomy
C.  Embryology
D.  Fossils
D.  Geology
E.  Animal and plant breeding
F.  Biogeography

IV.  Lamarck - a step in the right direction

V.   Darwin - evolution by means of natural selection
          A.  Brief biography     
B.  Influences
               1.  H.M.S. Beagle
               2.  Lyell and uniformitarianism
               3.  The Galapagos - island biology
               4.  Reverend Malthus
          C.  Natural Selection

VI.   Wallace - the time was ripe

VII.  Gould's evidence for evolution
          A.  Direct observations
          B.  Imperfections of nature
          C.  Fossil record

VIII.    Evolution as science
          A.  Testability
       B.  Falsifiability
          C.  Predictability

IX.  Population Genetics

Goal of this Unit:  The goal of this unit is to understand the historical development,
significance and central importance of evolution.  Further, well will analyze recent attacks on evolutionary theory.

Required Reading:  course notes; text Chapter 22 & 23

Supplemental Reading/Study:  (not required, available in file cabinet in Botany Lab)

Evolution, a co-production of the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit and Clear Blue Sky Productions.  Eight volume series.  Available at Clemens (QH367 .E86 2001).  For more about the series click here

God, Darwin and the Dinosaurs; A production of Cineworks, Inc. in association with WGBH Boston for NOVA.  Chronicles the history of the creation-evolution controversy in the United States and examines the arguments put forth by the supporters of both views.  Available in both libraries at B818 .G62 1993

Dawn of man: the story of human evolution;  A BBC/The Learning Channel co-production.  Available at Alcuin at GN281 .D38 2000.  

Important Terms/Concepts:  (Be able to use conversationally.)

  • archipelago

  • bottleneck effect

  • catastrophism

  • coevolution

  • evolution

  • extant

  • extinct

  • fitness (reproductive)

  • founder effect

  • genetic drift

  • homologous structure

  • hybrid

  • individual

  • macroevolution

  • microevolution

  • mutation

  • natural selection

  • natural selection

  • paradigm

  • population

  • selection � directional

  • selection � disruptive (diversifying)

  • selection � stabilizing

  • special creation

  • special creation

  • speciation

  • species

  • uniformitarianism

  • variation

  • vestigial (rudimentary) organ


Some Questions for Thought and Study:

  1. Why is evolution important?

  2. Discuss how each of the following provide evidence for evolution: comparative anatomy, embryology, geology, paleontology, breeding.

  3. What is a homologous structure?  analogous structure?  vestigial organ?  What evolutionary conclusion can be drawn from these structures?  Give examples of each.

  4. Discuss peppered moths and antibiotic resistance in microorganisms as examples of evolutionary change.  Can you think of any others?

  5. What does Darwin mean by fittest?

  6. What is adaptation?  Why is it important?

  7. Why is it true that organisms are never perfectly adapted?

  8. Discuss the significance of Dobzhansky's quote at the beginning of this guide.

  9. Stephen Gould argues that the proof of evolution is revealed by the imperfections of nature.  Using an example such as the Panda's thumb, explain what he means.

  10. Evolution is a testable, falsifiable theory.  Explain using an example.

  11. Explain the fallacy expressed by ex-President Reagan's quote below.  Contrast it with the quote by Darwin.

  12. Why do males have nipples?

  13. Explain why, from an evolutionary perspective, males/females have organisms.

  14. There is a separation of the site of organism and the site of intercourse in human females.  Explain why, from a strictly adaptationist viewpoint this separation is unexpected.  Then, explain why this situation exists.

  15. Can you define adaptation?  Can you give an example?

  16. Gould cites three major pieces of evidence in support of evolution.  What are they?  (hint:  direct observation, imperfections, fossils).

  17. Check out the questions at the end of the chapters.

  18. Do you agree with Tom Robbin's description of evolution?

  19. What is the equation for the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium model for evolution.  Can you work simple Hardy-Weinberg problems?  Bring a calculator to the exam.

  20. Identify the criteria that must be met for the Hardy-Weinberg model to be satisfied.  Describe the result if one or more of these criteria are violated.

  21. Identify five factors/mechanisms that result in evolutionary change.

  22. Define migration, genetic drift, and mutation.  What is the function and/or result of each?

  23. Compare and contrast the Bottleneck effect and Founder effect.  Give an example of each.

  24. What the three major types of natural selection?  Give examples of each.  Identify the environmental conditions (ie., stable vs. changing) for each.

  25. Can you identify each of the following individuals:  Buffon, Lamarck, Wallace, Darwin, Malthus, Fitzroy, Hardy-Weinberg; Dobzhansky.

Well, it is a theory.  It is a scientific theory only and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science - that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was.

President Reagan
Dallas 1981


I had two distinct objectives in view.  Firstly, to show that species had not been specially created and secondly that natural selection has been the chief agent of change...Hence, if I have erred in....having exaggerated its [natural selection's] power...I have at least, I hope, done good service aiding to overthrow the dogma of separate creations.

Charles Darwin
Descent of Man


Alice never could quite make it out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was they began:  al she remembered is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could to keep up with her ..."Why I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time!  Everything's just as it was".   "In our country", said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get somewhere else - if you ran very fast for a long time as we've been doing".

    "A slow sort of country!" said the Queen.  "Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must ran at least twice as fast as that!"

Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass


Evolution drives a bulldozer disguised as a stationary bike.

Tom Robbins
Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas


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Last updated: December 09, 2004
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