Understanding Evolution: your one-stop source for information on evolution
Resource library Teaching materials Evolution 101
 
EVOLUTION 101

Introduction

Patterns

Mechanisms

Microevolution

Speciation

Macroevolution

The big issues

en Espanol en Español     print print

Mechanisms of change

Each of these four processes is a basic mechanism of evolutionary change.

Mutation
A mutation could cause parents with genes for bright green coloration to have offspring with a gene for brown coloration. That would make genes for brown coloration more frequent in the population than they were before the mutation.
Mutation
Migration
Some individuals from a population of brown beetles might have joined a population of green beetles. That would make genes for brown coloration more frequent in the green beetle population than they were before the brown beetles migrated into it.
Migration
Genetic drift
Imagine that in one generation, two brown beetles happened to have four offspring survive to reproduce. Several green beetles were killed when someone stepped on them and had no offspring. The next generation would have a few more brown beetles than the previous generation — but just by chance. These chance changes from generation to generation are known as genetic drift.
Genetic drift
Natural selection
Imagine that green beetles are easier for birds to spot (and hence, eat). Brown beetles are a little more likely to survive to produce offspring. They pass their genes for brown coloration on to their offspring. So in the next generation, brown beetles are more common than in the previous generation.
Natural Selection

Download this series of graphics from the Image library.

All of these mechanisms can cause changes in the frequencies of genes in populations, and so all of them are mechanisms of evolutionary change. However, natural selection and genetic drift cannot operate unless there is genetic variation — that is, unless some individuals are genetically different from others. If the population of beetles were 100% green, selection and drift would not have any effect because their genetic make-up could not change.

So, what are the sources of genetic variation?



previous
Descent with modification

  next
Genetic variation


Mechanisms
page 3 of 22
previous | next  >