Biological Evolution (biological + evolution)

Distribution by Scientific Domains

Selected Abstracts

The diversification and extinction of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs in South China: causes and biostratigraphic significance

Zhou Chuanming
Abstract The Ediacaran Period immediately follows the last Cryogenian glaciation,the ,635,Ma Marinoan or Nantuo glaciation, and it is also punctuated by another brief glaciation,the ,582,Ma Gaskiers glaciation. It is possible that these glaciations may have had significant impact on Ediacaran biological evolution (e.g. the appearance or disappearance of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs). Alternative hypotheses propose that the diversification of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs was caused by the Acraman bolide impact or by emerging eumetazoans. To test these hypotheses, high-resolution geochronological and biostratigraphic data are required. The Doushantuo Formation in South China, radiometrically constrained between ,635 and ,551,Ma, has the potential to clarify the global picture of early-middle Ediacaran evolution. Here we present preliminary biostratigraphic data from the Doushantuo Formation in the East Yangtze Gorges area and new ,13C chemostratigraphic data from the Doushantuo Formation at Weng'an. These and previously published palaeontological data, aided by the tool of ,13C chemostratigraphy, indicate that the biostratigraphic record of the Doushantuo Formation is locally sensitive to the availability of specific taphonomic windows. In the East Yangtze Gorges area, Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs first appeared shortly after the termination of the Nantuo glaciation and gradually diversified throughout the Doushantuo Formation. At Weng'an, however, such acritarchs first appear,abruptly and in much greater diversity,in phosphorite of the upper Doushantuo Formation, immediately above a subaerial exposure surface. Thus, the biostratigraphic pattern in the East Yangtze Gorges area permits, whereas that at Weng'an apparently disallows, a causal relationship between the Nantuo glaciation and the diversification of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs. We conclude that the biostratigraphic record is incomplete at Weng'an, where the early Ediacaran evolutionary history is not preserved. The South China data indicate that special attention has to be paid to taphonomic and palaeoenvironmental analysis before extrapolating local and regional biostratigraphic ranges to make global interpretations. It is less clear when Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs disappeared. Previous investigators have variously suggested that they disappeared before, at, or after, the Gaskiers glaciation. These hypotheses are difficult to test because of the lack of sedimentary evidence for the Gaskiers glaciation in South China and other regions (e.g. South Australia) where Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs are abundant. In Australia, Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs are thought to have experienced a sharp decline after the Egan glaciation, which may well be equivalent to the Gaskiers glaciation. If true, then Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs are largely restricted to the interval between the Nantuo and Gaskiers glaciations. This conclusion allows us to place constraints on the possible causes of the diversification and extinction of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs and has important implications for the biostratigraphic significance of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]

Intentions and beliefs in students' understanding and acceptance of biological evolution

Gale M. Sinatra
We examined the intersection of students' understanding and acceptance of evolution and their epistemological beliefs and cognitive dispositions. Based on previous research, we hypothesized there would be a relation between understanding and acceptance. We also hypothesized that students who viewed knowledge as changing and who have a disposition toward open-minded thinking would be more likely to accept the scientific explanation of human evolution, and that beliefs and dispositions would not be related to acceptance of a topic that is generally perceived as noncontroversial. Ninety-three undergraduate students enrolled in a nonmajors biology class completed measures of their (a) content knowledge of evolution and photosynthesis and respiration; (b) acceptance of theories of animal evolution, human evolution, and photosynthesis; and (c) epistemological beliefs and cognitive dispositions. Although our findings did reveal a significant relation between knowledge and reported acceptance for photosynthesis, there was no relation between knowledge and acceptance of animal or human evolution. Epistemological beliefs were related to acceptance, but only to the acceptance of human evolution. There was no relation between students' epistemological beliefs and their general acceptance of animal evolution or photosynthesis. Three subscales, Ambiguous Information, Actively Open-Minded Thinking, and Belief Identification, were significantly correlated with understanding evolutionary theory. We argue these findings underscore the importance of intentional level constructs, such as epistemological beliefs and cognitive dispositions, in the learning of potentially controversial topics. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 40: 510,528, 2003 [source]

Is There a Stabilizing Selection Around Average Fertility in Modern Human Populations?

Ulrich Mueller
Possibly the greatest challenge for an evolutionary explanation of demographic transition is the fact that fertility levels universally start to fall first among the well-to-do, well-educated, healthy classes, which can be explained only by some voluntary or at least adaptive action. The problem of how restraints on fertility could have evolved by natural selection has been tackled with group selection models as well as with stabilizing selection models. The latter model, which is critically discussed in this article, posits that some intermediate (rather than maximal) level of fertility is optimal for long-term reproductive success. Tests of stabilizing selection in human populations are rare, their results inconclusive. Here four sets of data are analyzed: they are samples drawn from the 'class of 1950 of the US Military Academy at West Point (cohorts 1923,29), retired US noncommissioned officers (cohorts 1913,37), and western German and eastern German physicians (cohorts 1930,35), all containing fertility data over two generations, and from European royalty (cohorts 1790,1939) containing fertility data over four generations. Deterministic as well as stochastic fitness measures are used. It is found that maximal, not average, fertility in the first generation leads to maximal long-term reproductive success. Also against prediction, no decreasing marginal fitness gains by increasing fertility can be observed. The findings leave little space for considering stabilizing selection as a plausible mechanism explaining the course of demographic transition but indicate instead that biological evolution today is as fast and vigorous as ever in human history. Even in large populations, all people living today may be the descendants of just some few percents,a much smaller proportion than generally believed, of the people living some generations ago. [source]

From cofactor to enzymes.

-phosphate-dependent enzymes, The molecular evolution of pyridoxal-
Abstract The pyridoxal-5,-phosphate (vitamin B6)-dependent enzymes that act on amino acid substrates have multiple evolutionary origins. Thus, the common mechanistic features of B6 enzymes are not accidental historical traits but reflect evolutionary or chemical necessities. The B6 enzymes belong to four independent evolutionary lineages of paralogous proteins, of which the , family (with aspartate aminotransferase as the prototype enzyme) is by far the largest and most diverse. The considerably smaller , family (tryptophan synthase , as the prototype enzyme) is structurally and functionally more homogenous. Both the D -alanine aminotransferase family and the alanine racemase family consist of only a few enzymes. The primordial pyridoxal-5,-phosphate-dependent protein catalysts apparently first diverged into reaction-specific protoenzymes, which then diverged further by specializing for substrate specificity. Aminotransferases as well as amino acid decarboxylases are found in two different evolutionary lineages, providing examples of convergent enzyme evolution. The functional specialization of most B6 enzymes seems to have already occurred in the universal ancestor cell before the divergence of eukaryotes, archebacteria, and eubacteria 1500 million years ago. Pyridoxal-5,-phosphate must have emerged very early in biological evolution; conceivably, metal ions and organic cofactors were the first biological catalysts. To simulate particular steps of molecular evolution, both the substrate and reaction specificity of existent B6 enzymes were changed by substitution of active-site residues, and monoclonal pyridoxal-5,-phosphate-dependent catalytic antibodies were produced with selection criteria that might have been operative in the evolution of protein-assisted pyridoxal catalysis. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and The Japan Chemical Journal Forum Chem Rec 1:436,447, 2001 [source]

A Digital Breeder for Designing Cities

Michael Batty
Abstract The idea that inspired designs mirror processes of biological evolution is fast gaining ground as we learn more about how complex systems such as cities function. Michael Batty illustrates how cities can now be grown in ,digital laboratories' and, by imposing realistic constraints on their form, begin to breed ,good designs' that emerge from continual feedbacks that reinforce the best and iron out the worst. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]

A New Subfamily of Aphids (Hemiptera, Aphidomorpha) from the Early Cretaceous Lebanese Amber with a Description of the Oldest Apterous Morphs

Abstract: Aphids are marked by their high polymorphism, but species reported from the Early Cretaceous are known only from alate morphs. The discovery of an apterous adult morph in Lebanese amber and a larva of the same species are very important for the understanding of both the morphological and biological evolution of this insect group at the very early stage of development. Gondvanoaphis estephani new subfamily, new genus and species of the recent aphids family Thelaxidae is described. The characters of the new genus in respect to other genera placed in Thelaxidae are reviewed. The palaeoecological and palaeogeographical data concerning Gondvanoaphis new genus are also discussed. [source]

Neotectonics, sea-level changes and biological evolution in the Fennoscandian Border Zone of the southern Kattegat Sea

BOREAS, Issue 2 2002
Shallow seismic data and vibrocore information, sequence stratigraphic and faunal evidence have been used for documentation of Late Weichselian reactivation of faulting in the south central Kattegat, southern Scandinavia. The study area is situated on the Fennoscandian Border Zone, where tectonic activity has been recurrent since Early Palaeozoic time and still occurs, as shown by present earthquake activity. New data from the area south of the island of Anholt show that after deglaciation fast isostatic rebound resulted in reactivation of a NW-SE striking normal fault system. This tectonic episode is dated to a period starting shortly before 15.0 cal. ka BP and ending around 13.5 cal. ka BP, after regression had already reached a level of about 30 m b.s.l. The vertical displacement associated with the faulting was in the order of 20 m. More generally, the results support the previously reported late Weichselian sea-level highstand, which was followed by forced regression until the eustatic sea-level rise surpassed the rate of glacio-isostatic rebound in early Preboreal. Our findings further imply that drainage of the Baltic Ice Lake through the Øresund at c. 15 cal. ka BP (Bergsten & Nordberg 1992) may have been triggered by tectonic activity in this region. [source]

Variation, Natural Selection, and Information Content , A Simulation

Bernard Testa
Abstract In Neo-Darwinism, variation and natural selection are the two evolutionary mechanisms that propel biological evolution. Variation implies changes in the gene pool of a population, enlarging the genetic variability from which natural selection can choose. But in the absence of natural selection, variation causes dissipation and randomization. Natural selection, in contrast, constrains this variability by decreasing the survival and fertility of the less-adapted organisms. The objective of this study is to propose a highly simplified simulation of variation and natural selection, and to relate the observed evolutionary changes in a population to its information content. The model involves an imaginary population of individuals. A quantifiable character allows the individuals to be categorized into bins. The distribution of bins (a histogram) was assumed to be Gaussian. The content of each bin was calculated after one to twelve cycles, each cycle spanning N generations (N being undefined). In a first study, selection was simulated in the absence of variation. This was modeled by assuming a differential fertility factor F that increased linearly from the lower bins (F<1.00) to the higher bins (F>1.00). The fertility factor was applied as a multiplication factor during each cycle. Several ranges of fertility were investigated. The resulting histograms became skewed to the right. In a second study, variation was simulated in the absence of selection. This was modeled by assuming that during each cycle each bin lost a fixed percentage of its content (variation factor Y) to its two adjacent bins. The resulting histograms became broader and flatter, while retaining their bilateral symmetry. Different values of Y were monitored. In a third study, various values of F and Y were combined. Our model allows the straightforward application of Shannon's equation and the calculation of a Shannon -entropy (SE) values for each histogram. Natural selection was, thus, shown to result in a progressive decrease in SE as a function of F. In other words, natural selection, when acting alone, progressively increased the information content of the population. In contrast, variation resulted in a progressive increase in SE as a function of Y. In other words, variation acting alone progressively decreased the information content of a population. When both factors, F and Y, were applied simultaneously, their relative weight determined the progressive change in SE. [source]

Life, information, entropy, and time: Vehicles for semantic inheritance

COMPLEXITY, Issue 1 2007
Antony R. Crofts
Abstract Attempts to understand how information content can be included in an accounting of the energy flux of the biosphere have led to the conclusion that, in information transmission, one component, the semantic content, or "the meaning of the message," adds no thermodynamic burden over and above costs arising from coding, transmission and translation. In biology, semantic content has two major roles. For all life forms, the message of the genotype encoded in DNA specifies the phenotype, and hence the organism that is tested against the real world through the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution. For human beings, communication through language and similar abstractions provides an additional supra-phenotypic vehicle for semantic inheritance, which supports the cultural heritages around which civilizations revolve. The following three postulates provide the basis for discussion of a number of themes that demonstrate some important consequences. (i) Information transmission through either pathway has thermodynamic components associated with data storage and transmission. (ii) The semantic content adds no additional thermodynamic cost. (iii) For all semantic exchange, meaning is accessible only through translation and interpretation, and has a value only in context. (1) For both pathways of semantic inheritance, translational and copying machineries are imperfect. As a consequence both pathways are subject to mutation and to evolutionary pressure by selection. Recognition of semantic content as a common component allows an understanding of the relationship between genes and memes, and a reformulation of Universal Darwinism. (2) The emergent properties of life are dependent on a processing of semantic content. The translational steps allow amplification in complexity through combinatorial possibilities in space and time. Amplification depends on the increased potential for complexity opened by 3D interaction specificity of proteins, and on the selection of useful variants by evolution. The initial interpretational steps include protein synthesis, molecular recognition, and catalytic potential that facilitate structural and functional roles. Combinatorial possibilities are extended through interactions of increasing complexity in the temporal dimension. (3) All living things show a behavior that indicates awareness of time, or chronognosis. The ,4 billion years of biological evolution have given rise to forms with increasing sophistication in sensory adaptation. This has been linked to the development of an increasing chronognostic range, and an associated increase in combinatorial complexity. (4) Development of a modern human phenotype and the ability to communicate through language, led to the development of archival storage, and invention of the basic skills, institutions and mechanisms that allowed the evolution of modern civilizations. Combinatorial amplification at the supra-phenotypical level arose from the invention of syntax, grammar, numbers, and the subsequent developments of abstraction in writing, algorithms, etc. The translational machineries of the human mind, the "mutation" of ideas therein, and the "conversations" of our social intercourse, have allowed a limited set of symbolic descriptors to evolve into an exponentially expanding semantic heritage. (5) The three postulates above open interesting epistemological questions. An understanding of topics such dualism, the élan vital, the status of hypothesis in science, memetics, the nature of consciousness, the role of semantic processing in the survival of societies, and Popper's three worlds, require recognition of an insubstantial component. By recognizing a necessary linkage between semantic content and a physical machinery, we can bring these perennial problems into the framework of a realistic philosophy. It is suggested, following Popper, that the ,4 billion years of evolution of the biosphere represents an exploration of the nature of reality at the physicochemical level, which, together with the conscious extension of this exploration through science and culture, provides a firm epistemological underpinning for such a philosophy. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity, 2007 [source]