Mechanisms of Organic Change: Evolution (August 28 – September 1)

Lots of material this week. Note that you do not need to read every word of every source. These are supplementary resources for your understanding of the topics. Start with a good definition of evolution, for you will soon see that dorm room conversations on the topic often have significant errors and misconceptions. The University of California Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley has an excellent website on the history of evolutionary theory, including good sections on pre-Darwinian thinkers. The Berkeley pages on “Understanding Evolution” are the best on the web. Charles Darwin is well represented web-wise, and Alfred Russel Wallace is the subject of this excellent site by Charles Smith of Western Kentucky University. The full text of Darwin’s most famous work, The Origin of Species (which appeared over 150 years ago), is available on-line. It is not scintillating reading, at least not on a computer, but you may want to peruse the preface and the conclusions. For a simple and effective presentation on evolutionary theory, try this YouTube video by “Stated Clearly”.

This excellent computer graphics animation of DNA replication is helpful, as is this animation of DNA and the construction of proteins. They hit all the major points of the process we will discuss in lecture (and a few more). The “Stated Clearly” channel has a useful tutorial on DNA and its functions. The Crash Course on DNA replication is also very good. Here is yet another animation of protein synthesis. I’m obviously repeating this important material several times!

Anomalocaridid “arm” from the Burgess Shale, Walcott Quarry, British Columbia, Canada. (Click to enlarge.)

Geology in the News –

A nice little baby bird was found encased in Cretaceous amber in Burma. The detail of preservation is amazing, even including indications of original colors.

Dodos aren’t quite fossils, since they lived into historical times, but they are extinct and can only be studied indirectly though their bones and remains of eggs and nests. New ideas are emerging from investigations of these funny birds.

Warmer conditions are encouraging algae to grow on the surfaces of Greenland’s ice sheets. This darkens the ice, which causes it to absorb more radiation from sunlight, and thus melts even more ice. More evidence, if you need it, of global climate change.

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