Futuyma, Douglas J. Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York.
Last reviewed:July 2018
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- Study of evolution
- Historical importance of Charles Darwin
- Mechanisms of species transformation
- Genetic variation
- Natural selection
- Random genetic drift
- Rates of evolution
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The modification of living organisms during their descent, generation by generation, from common ancestors. Organic, or biological, evolution encompasses the processes of change in organisms by which descendants come to differ from their ancestors, and it includes the history of the sequence of such changes (Fig. 1). Organic evolution is distinguished from other phenomena to which the term evolution is often applied, such as chemical evolution, cultural evolution, or the origin of life from nonliving matter. Organic evolution includes two major processes: anagenesis, the alteration of the genetic properties of a single lineage over time; and cladogenesis, or branching, whereby a single lineage splits into two or more distinct lineages that continue to change anagenetically. Most importantly, there is no controversy about the reality of evolution as a historical event. That organisms have descended from common ancestors is accepted by knowledgeable biologists as fact. Molecular and other similarities point to the fact that all living things are related to each other by common ancestry. See also: Animal evolution; Macroevolution; Plant evolution
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