Evolution through Natural Selection

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Children often play a game called telephone, where one child whispers a statement into another child's ear, and the statement is passed on to other children; at the end of the game the last child will repeat the statement that was told to him or her. The majority of the time, the statement said would be completely different than the original one. This is an example of evolution through natural selection; where somewhere along the life span of the statement, it was modified, and the modified statement was passed on to form a new statement.

Charles Darwin stated that, "individuals are the unit of selection; the struggle for existence is a matter among individuals." In this statement Darwin is referring to natural selection. Natural selection is defined as the differential contribution of offspring resulting from variations in heritable traits. As a result of natural selection, certain individuals in a given population produce certain traits that others do not. Natural selection is the only agent that adapts organisms to their environment; if a species cannot adapt to their environment, eventually they will be extinct.

In my visit to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), I observed many interesting things concerning the issue on evolution and natural selection. An example of evolutionism I saw in the AMNH was the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution. This hall concentrated on human evolution and how certain traits arose through successful generation—such as the change in the skeletal system as a result of walking upright. Fossils of Australopithecus afarensis, which is believed to be the earliest human relative, are dated back nearly 4 million years.

The Hall of the Vertebrate Origins is another exhibit that shows evidence of evolutionism. The purpose of this hall is to show that all vertebrates had a common ancestor. That common ancestor had a brain case and a backbone. As time progressed, the vertebrates developed limbs that were supported by the backbone, and had watertight eggs.

The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs and the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs are more examples of evolution within vertebrates. However, these two halls do not have much in common with our line of ancestry except for the fact that a backbone and brain case are present; any other things in common with our lineage are but minor details. That is why the AMNH has another hall called Mammals and Extinct Relatives.

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