Biol 3380/5380- Evolutionary Biology Overview

Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution - Th. Dobzhansky (1973)

Evolutionary biology and systematics are the branches of biology that investigate and explain the unique history of life on this planet. Evolution provides theories that help us understand the processes and mechanisms that account for biodiversity.Systematics is involved with formulating and testing hypotheses of relationships.

In order to understand the complex history of life over the last 3.8 billion years, evolutionary biologists build upon data and ideas from other disciplines of biology (e.g., cell biology, developmental biology, ecology, ethology, genetics, molecular biology, morphology) and other areas of science (e.g., chemistry, geology, physics). As we study evolution this semester, we will be building upon concepts and ideas discussed in this class and learned elsewhere. I have organized this course in a somewhat hierarchical manner whereby new ideas build upon previous ideas. That is, concepts and theories developed at lower levels will be necessary, but not sufficient, to explain and understand phenomena at higher levels. All of these ideas and concepts, taken together, are needed to understand biological evolution and biodiversity. The different levels that we will study or build upon include:

Mendelian Genetics --> Population Genetics --> Natural Selection and Adaptation --> Species and Speciation --> Systematics

As you look at your notes throughout the semester, keep this flow chart in mind; look at it every night as you study. It will help you to see where we are, where we have been and where we are going. It should help you to more easily synthesize all the material covered in this comprehensive course. It will help you understand why evolution is the main unifying concept of biology.