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Topics: Evolution, Charles Darwin, Natural selection, Evolutionary biology, On the Origin of Species / Pages: 3 (847 words) / Published: Oct 27th, 2014
Emma Stearns Zoology 10/15/14 Evolution Beginning with bacteria and unicellular organism, through invertebrates, fish and amphibians, on to reptiles, birds, and eventually land mammals, species have evolved in huge leaps and bounds in the millions of years that our planet has been in existence. We have moved out of the water and onto the land, we have developed brains and nervous systems, highly advanced survival instincts and social and behavioral traits that did not exist millions of years ago. Species have evolved to become more diverse and more complex through a number of different biological trends. But as much as we can learn about these phenomena by observing changes over time, in it much more difficult to predict where evolution is heading in the long run. Which species will survive and thrive, and which will find themselves unable to carry on due to changing conditions, threats, and competition? Evolution has allowed humans in particular to thrive and become creatures of choice, freedom, and responsibility. Although other animals have gained somewhat similar traits, it is clear that humans have control in hierarchy of animal society. In our rise to domination, we have created a disadvantage for other species to evolve to their full capacity. It is perhaps hard for more than one species to evolve towards full freedom at the same time. If humans found themselves faced with a dramatic change in environment that they could not survive in, it would give another species the opportunity to evolve to their full capacity and become creatures of choice and responsibility. Evolution is a process towards freedom to a certain extent because it allows for freedom and choice, but not for every organism. The idea of evolution began to emerge in the 1700s with a Frenchman named George Buffon. A nobleman and naturalist, Buffon was the first person to talk seriously bout evolution as a theory of organisms slowly changing over time. James Hutton continued on the study of evolution in the late 1700s by saying that the world is indefinitely old, contradictory to the biblical teachings that were popular at that time. The study of evolution really took off with Charles Darwin, whose contributions to evolution theory hold the foundation of what we know to be true today. Darwin made many observations and inferences about evolution. He noted that species have great fertility, however, counterintuitively, populations remain stable. He observed that resources are limited, and that the struggle for existence is a battle within species, won by the strongest and most advanced. Only the fittest can survive—a process that Darwin called natural selection. These surviving animals pass down their traits though the generations, which produces gradual change over time. Other scientist later introduced other theories that Darwin had overlooked. In the 1970’s, Stephen Gould and Niles Elridge introduced Punctuated Equilibrium. Evolution does not only happen gradually over time; in fact, the most dramatic changes took place over short time periods such as the extinction of the dinosaurs, or the start of an ice age. These bursts in evolution were caused by intense and unpredictable changes in environment and conditions on the planet. As humans evolve further and further, becoming highly advanced and free in our decision making, perhaps we are moving towards an end point brought on by an unforeseeable change in our ecosystem that we will be unable to survive. This may free up other species to evolve towards creatures of freedom as we are today. We can see traits in other animals that are moving in the direction of freedom, that may flourish more and more as humans face an inevitable event that will cause their decline. The three-toed skink, for example, is a lizard that has been slowly evolving from laying eggs to live birth. This may result in a splitting off of two different species—an egg laying skink and a live birth skink. Who is to say which one is more evolutionarily advanced? Some habitats may be designed better for egg-layers, while others may be better for live births. Just as humans evolved from apes and apes still exist, species may evolve into new species better designed for their specific environment, while the old species may still thrive in a different environment. Each one is simply adapted for different conditions. The evolution of humans from chimpanzees was very rapid. The first Homonid lived approximately 5 million years ago, and since that time we have evolved in leaps and bounds, developing took-making skills, communication skills, social skills, and language. Humans advance quickly in the conditions on earth as it is today, and are well suited for these current conitions, but who knows what will happen in the next few million years? Will humans continue to advance, or will another species take over and become the new domineering species of choice, freedom, and responsibility? Perhaps in the event of human extinction, one species will find themselves more equipped for the new conditions, and rise above the other, and they will be the ones that will then be more “free.”

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