for biological evolution
Paleontology is the
study of prehistoric life through fossils. Fossils are described as the true
witnesses of evolution or documents
geological strata of
evolution. Fossilization is the process by which
plant and animal remains are preserved
in sedimentary rocks. They fall under three main categories.
i) Actual remains – The original hard parts such as bones, teeth
or shells are preserved as such in the earth’s atmosphere. This is the most
common method of fossilization.When marine animals die, their hard parts such
as bones, shells, etc., are covered with sediments and are protected from
further deterioration. They get preserved as such as they are preserved in vast
ocean; the salinity in them prevents decay. The sediments become hardened to
form definite layers or strata. For example, Woolly Mammoth that lived 22
thousand years ago were preserved
in the frozen coast of Siberia as such. Several
human beings and animals living in the ancient city of Pompeii were preserved intact
by volcanic ashwhich gushed out
from Mount Vesuvius.
ii) Petrifaction – When animals die the original portion of their
body may be replaced molecule for molecule by minerals and the original
substance being lost through disintegration. This method of fossilization is
called petrifaction. The principle minerals involved in this type fossilization
are iron pyrites, silica, calcium carbonate and bicarbonates of calcium
iii) Natural moulds and casts – Even after disintegration, the body of an
animal might leave indelible impression on the soft mud which later
becomes hardened into stones. Such impressions are called
moulds.The cavities of the moulds may get filled up by hard minerals and get
fossilized, which are called casts. Hardened faecal matter termed as coprolites
occur as tiny pellets. Analysis of the coprolites enables us to understand the
nature of diet the pre-historic animals thrived on.
Visit any museum
nearer to your school with your teacher and identify the bones of different
animals including mammals. The famous Egmore Museum is in Chennai.
structure between groups of organisms are accepted as indicators of
relationship. For example, a comparative study of the forelimbs of different
vertebrates exhibits a fundamental plan of similarity in structure. These
relationships can be studied under homologous organs, analogous organs,
vestigial organs, connecting links and atavistic organs.
comparative anatomical studies reveal a basic plan in various structures such
as fore limbs and hind limbs. Fore limbs of vertebrates exhibit anatomical
similarity with each other and is made of similar bones such as humerus,
radius, ulna, carpals, metacarpals and phalanges.
Structures which are
similar in origin but perform different functions are called homologous
structures that brings about divergent evolution (Fig 6.2).
Similarly the thorn of Bougainvillea
and the tendrils of Curcurbita and Pisum sativum represent
homology. The thorn in former is used as a defence mechanism from grazing
animals and the tendrils of latter is used as a support for climbing.
different structural patterns but similar function are termed as analogous
structures. For example, the wings of birds and insects are different
structurally but perform the same function of flight that brings about convergent
evolution (Fig. 6.3).
Other examples of
analogous organs include the eyes of the Octopus and of mammals and the
flippers of Penguins and Dolphins. Root modification in sweet potato and stem
modification in potato are considered as analogous organs. Both of these plants
have a common function of storage of food.
Structures that are of no use to the possessor, and are not necessary for their existence are called vestigial organs. Vestigial organs may be considered as remnants of structures which were well developed and functional in the ancestors, but disappeared in course of evolution due to their non-utilization. Human appendix is the remnant of caecum which is functional in the digestive tract of herbivorous animals like rabbit. Cellulose digestion takes place in the caecum of these animals. Due to change in the diet containing less cellulose, caecum in human became functionless and is reduced to a vermiform appendix, which is vestigial. Other examples of vestigial organs in human beings
include coccyx, wisdom
teeth, ear muscles, body hair, mammae in male, nictitating membrane of the eye,
The organisms which
possess the characters of two different groups (transitional stage) are called
connecting links. Example Peripatus (connecting link between Annelida
and Arthropoda), Archeopteryx (connecting link between Reptiles and
Sudden appearance of
vestigial organs in highly evolved organisms is called atavistic organs.
Example, presence of tail in a human baby is an atavistic organ.
Embryology deals with
the study of the development of
individual from the egg to the adult
stage. A detailed study of the embryonic development of different forms makes us to think that there is a close resemblance during
The development of heart in all vertebrates follows the same pattern of development as a pair of tubular structures that later develop into two chambered heart in fishes, three chambered in amphibians and in most reptiles and four chambered in crocodiles, birds and mammals; indicating a common ancestry for all the vertebrates,Hence scientists in the 19th century concluded that higher animals during their embryonic development pass through stages of lower animals (ancestors).
Ernst Von Haeckel, propounded the “biogenetic law or theory of
recapitulation” which states that the life history of an individual
(ontogeny) briefly repeats or recapitulates the evolutionary history of the
race (phylogeny). In other words “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny”. The
embryonic stages of a higher animal resemble the adult stage of its
ancestors. Appearance of pharyngeal gill slits, yolk sac and the appearance of
tail in human embryos are some of the examples (Fig. 6.4). The
biogenetic law is not universal and it is now thought that animals do not
recapitulate the adult stage of any ancestors. The human embryo recapitulates
the embryonic history and not the adult history of the organisms.
The comparative study of
the embryo of different animals shows structural similarities among themselves.
The embryos of fish, salamander, tortoise, chick and human start life as a
single cell, the zygote, and undergo cleavage to produce the blastula, change
to gastrula and are triploblastic. This indicates that all the above said
animals have evolved from a common ancestor.
Molecular evolution is
the process of change in the sequence composition of molecules such as DNA, RNA
and proteins across generations. It uses principles of evolutionary biology and
population genetics to explain patterns in the changes of molecules.
One of the most useful
advancement in the development of molecular biology is proteins and other
molecules that control life processes are conserved among species. A slight
change that occurs over time in these conserved molecules (DNA, RNA and
protein) are often called molecular clocks. Molecules that have been used to
study evolution are cytochrome c (respiratory pathway) and rRNA (protein synthesis).