Evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations and relies on the process of natural selection. The virtually infinite variations on life are the fruit of the evolutionary process. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution caused quite a fuss in the 19th century. At the time, the majority believed the world and everything in it were created all at once.
Whether you’re a believer in evolution or not, here are some interesting facts about evolution – one of the fundamental keystones of biology!
The theory of evolution is based on the idea that all species are related and gradually change over time.
Evolution relies on there being genetic variation in a population that affects the physical characteristics (phenotype) of an organism.
Some of these characteristics may give the individual an advantage over other individuals which they can then pass on to their offspring.
Every living thing can trace its ancestry to a bacterium that lived billions of years ago.
No two animals are the same, even if they belong to the same species.
There are over 340 breeds of dog, yet they all come from one kind of wild wolf that existed many years ago.
Humans share the same five-fingered bone structure in their hands with lots of other animals that have paws, wings, or flippers, such as lemurs and bats.
The slightest difference in color or design can help an animal or plant live, survive, and reproduce better in the wild. This is known as natural selection.
Instinct is another important part of natural selection. For example, most birds know they must travel to warmer places to survive during winter.
If animals and plants did not compete to survive, the Earth would be covered by the offspring of a single pair.
Little changes within one species can add up and create a whole new species.
Often these changes happen over thousands of years. So, it’s hard to see evolution happening with our own eyes.
The concept of evolution was most famously spread by Charles Darwin, who wrote the book ‘On the Origin of Species’ after studying creatures in the Galapagos.
It took Charles Darwin, 20 years to write and publish his original book ‘On the Origin of Species’ that explained the process of evolution.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution states that evolution happens through natural selection.
While Darwin is more famous, a medieval Persian scholar by the name of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi first developed a basic theory of evolution in the 13th century, over 600 years before Darwin published Origin of Species.
The first edition of Origin of Species didn’t include the word ‘evolution’ even once, although the last word of the manuscript was ‘evolved.’ However, living organisms aren’t the only things that evolve. By the sixth printing of the work, published in 1872, ‘evolution’ was mentioned eight times.
The theory of evolution has three basic parts: 1) it is possible for an organism’s DNA to change or mutate; 2) the change is harmful, beneficial, or neutral; and 3) after a long period of time, the mutations cause new species to form.
Mutations fuel evolution by providing new genes in the gene pool of a species. Many factors cause DNA mutation, including X-rays, cosmic rays, nuclear radiation, and random chemical reactions in a cell.
Darwin doesn’t discuss the evolution of humans that often in the Origin of Species. The most cited animal in his work? The common rock pigeon.
Obscure, but true. If you rearrange the letters in ‘Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution’ you can spell ‘Oh-ho! Words verify Natural Selection.’
Darwin did not argue that humans came from monkeys. Rather he wrote only that monkeys, apes, and humans have a common ancestor.
The phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ is most often associated with Charles Darwin. However, the term was actually coined by Herbert Spencer, one of Darwin’s contemporaries, who first used it after reading the Origin of Species.
Evolution rarely follows a straight line from species to species. Instead, it is more like a tree with many branches. Some branches lead to new branches, while others become dead ends.
Homo sapiens left Africa, entering Europe and Asia, over 80,000 years ago, but by then they were late to the party. Homo erectus, our earlier ancestor, had first ventured out of the continent over 1 million years earlier.
When Homo sapiens first arrived in Eurasia, they would have found many similar people waiting there for them. Early humans, like Neanderthals and the descendants of Homo erectus, would have been living there for hundreds of thousands of years.
Many people alive today likely have some Neanderthal genes, according to a genetic analysis of Neanderthal bones. This probably means that when early Homo sapiens entered the Middle East, Asia, and Europe they had children with the Neanderthals they encountered there.
Homo sapiens likely arrived in Australia roughly 65,000 years ago, travelling there by sea from Southeast Asia.
In the last 5,000 years, human beings have been changing faster than any other time in history – approximately 100 times faster.
Human beings aren’t done evolving. The human genome is still changing, and some of these mutations are rapidly spreading throughout the human population.
Blonds are only about 11,000 years old. Light-colored hair was an evolutionary response to the lack of sunlight in Northern Europe, and it likely developed because it helped facilitate greater Vitamin D synthesis.
Most people had brown eyes until about 10,000 years ago when a single genetic mutation from the Black Sea switched the eyes from brown to blue. Approximately 8% of the world’s population now has blue eyes.
Light skin in European and Asian people is regulated by different DNA sequences. That’s because, through a process known as convergent evolution, Europeans and Asians developed light skin independently.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about evolution that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!