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Introduction

Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the diversity of life on Earth. Simply, it is also defined as the study of the history of life forms on Earth. Evolution is based on the theory that all species are related and they gradually change over time. In a population, the genetic variations affect the physical characteristics i.e. phenotypes of an organism. These changes in the phenotypes will be an advantage to some organisms, which will then be passed onto their offspring. Peppered Moth and Flightless birds are some examples of evolution in species over many generations. In the 1930s, the discipline of evolutionary biology emerged through what Julian Huxley called the modern synthesis of understanding, from previously unrelated fields of biological research, such as genetics and ecology, systematics, and paleontology. A person who studies Evolutionary biology is called an Evolutionary biologist. The importance of studying Evolutionary biology is mainly to understand the principles behind the origin and extinction of species.

The investigational range of current research widened to encompass the genetic architecture of adaptation, molecular evolution, and the different forces that contribute to evolution, such as sexual selection, genetic drift, and biogeography. Moreover, the newer field of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo") investigates how embryogenesis, the development of the embryo, is controlled, thus yielding a wider synthesis that integrates developmental biology with the fields of study covered by the earlier evolutionary synthesis. (Full article...)

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Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom is a 2005 book by the molecular biologist Sean B. Carroll. It presents a summary of the emerging field of evolutionary developmental biology and the role of toolkit genes. It has won numerous awards for science communication.

The book's somewhat controversial argument is that evolution in animals (though no doubt similar processes occur in other organisms) proceeds mostly by modifying the way that regulatory genes, which do not code for structural proteins (such as enzymes), control embryonic development. In turn, these regulatory genes turn out to be based on a very old set of highly conserved genes which Carroll nicknames the toolkit. Almost identical sequences can be found across the animal kingdom, meaning that toolkit genes such as Hox must have evolved before the Cambrian radiation which created most of the animal body plans that exist today. These genes are used and reused, occasionally by duplication but far more often by being applied unchanged to new functions. Thus the same signal may be given at a different time in development, in a different part of the embryo, creating a different effect on the adult body. In Carroll's view, this explains how so many body forms are created with so few structural genes. (Full article...)

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The following are images from various evolutionary biology-related articles on Wikipedia.

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Credit: Matilda

The last known Thylacine photographed at Hobart (formerly Beaumaris) Zoo in 1933. A scrotal sac is not visible in this or any other of the photos or film taken, leading to the supposition that "Benjamin" was a female, but the existence of a scrotal pouch in the Thylacine makes it impossible to be certain

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  • ... that despite the relative rarity of suitable conditions for fossilization, approximately 250,000 fossil species are known?
  • ... that all forms of natural speciation have taken place over the course of evolution, though it still remains a subject of debate as to the relative importance of each mechanism in driving biodiversity?
  • ... that maintained gene flow between two populations can also lead to a combination of the two gene pools, reducing the genetic variation between the two groups?

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