You may have heard the term “natural selection” in conversations about science. But what exactly does ‘natural selection’ mean? The Encyclopedia Britannica defines natural selection as “the process that results in the adaptation of an organism to its environment through the selective reproduction of changes in its genotype or genetic constitution.” What does this mean? In general, natural selection is the idea that of all living things only a few will survive and reproduce. Those who do are those who have successfully adapted to their environment in order to thrive. According to this theory, organisms that do not adapt and evolve will eventually disappear from the world. Those who do remain on Earth do so because they have genetically adapted, allowing their physical characteristics to evolve over time and to continue living. Below are 10 interesting facts about natural selection.
- 10. The theory was popularized by Charles Darwin
- 9. The theory was developed before people knew you can inherit your mother’s eyes
- 8. It acts on the physical characteristics of an organism
- 7. Over time, even small benefits can become dominant
- 6. A ‘fit’ individual is an individual that reproduces
- 5. It can be classified by trait, genetic diversity and life cycle stage
- 4. It can also be ranked by unit of selection, and a competition for resources
- 3. Natural selection is probably a cornerstone of the origin of life
- 2. Natural selection contributes to antibiotic resistance
- 1. Not everyone likes Darwin’s ideas
10. The theory was popularized by Charles Darwin
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The theory of natural selection is associated with Charles Darwin. Darwin was an English scholar who focused his work on geology, biology and the natural world. He traveled to the Galápagos Islands in 1832 and lived there for five years. At that time, he looked at the natural world, collecting and studying specimens. Darwin spent another 20 years collecting data on the natural world, and in 1859 his seminal book On the Origin of Species was published. In it, his ideas about evolution were shared with the world. Darwin was the first person to argue that all species on Earth descended from common ancestors. As such, he is seen as the godfather of evolution, of which his theory of natural selection is a cornerstone.
9. The theory was developed before people knew you can inherit your mother’s eyes
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Darwin was the first person to bring the idea of evolution to the masses. Amazingly, he was already doing this before the advent of genetics. When Darwin wrote down his ideas, the scientific world had not yet proposed the modern theory of genetics that we know today.
8. It acts on the physical characteristics of an organism
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The theory of natural selection has to do with the physical body of an organism. For example, humans are believed by scientists and many others to be descended from primates. Our coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is a leftover we have from our primate days, and is our vestigial tail. When the primates descended from the trees and started walking upright, they no longer needed a tail to help them balance and move. So humans have evolved not to have a tail. The theory goes that those early ancestors of Homo sapiens (us) who stopped developing tails were the ones who had to survive and reproduce. In this way they were part of natural selection.
7. Over time, even small benefits can become dominant
You might think that only those physical features that provide major evolutionary advantages would become dominant in one species. However, Darwin felt that this was not the case. Even a trait that slightly improves an organism’s chances of survival and reproduction, and which can be inherited by its offspring, has a good chance of being passed down through the generations. For example, if a gene happens to make some squirrels a little faster than others, it can be passed on. As long as it offers even a small advantage and it’s heritable, this genetic difference could come to dominate the entire species for generations to come.
6. A ‘fit’ individual is an individual that reproduces
When you think of someone who is strong and has a good level of fitness, you can equate that with living a long time. However, being fit by Darwin’s definition means that you are an organism that reproduces. The expression “survival of the fittest” does not refer to the survival of the individual, but to the continuation of their familial lineage, if you look at the modern theory of evolution. A person may not live much longer, but if he has many children, his genes have a better chance of becoming in generations to come. The individual may still die young by our standards, but their genes have been passed on, and as such they are ‘fit’.
5. It can be classified by trait, genetic diversity and life cycle stage
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Natural selection can be classified in many ways. It can be classified based on how it behaves on the traits of an organism, on the genetic diversity of a species, and on the life cycle stage it is in.
4. It can also be ranked by unit of selection, and a competition for resources
In addition to the above factors, natural selection can also be classified according to how it acts on the units within the species. Does it work on individuals, or does it work on groups? It can also be classified according to the resources that the organisms compete for.
3. Natural selection is probably a cornerstone of the origin of life
Some scientists believe that life first appeared in the universe as short self-replicating RNA polymers. When these RNA chains first experienced Darwin’s conditions for natural selection variation of type, the ability to inherit genes, and to compete for limited resources – some believe that life began to evolve into what it is today .
2. Natural selection contributes to antibiotic resistance
What do antibiotics have to do with all this? One word: superbugs. They are infectious diseases that could once be treated with antibiotics, but are no longer killed by them. The microorganisms have evolved to survive the attacking antibiotics. This is an excellent example of natural selection, and evolution, at work.
1. Not everyone likes Darwin’s ideas
As you may know, many people in the past and today did not believe and believe in evolution. The science is there, but religious and personal beliefs can complicate people’s support for his theories.