J. V. Siry, Ph.D.

The Imperiled Planet an on line guide

Week One:

Edward O. Wilson, Storm over the Amazon, Diversity of Life

















Darwin, Wallace, Mendel & the descent of the human animal from the tree of life.*
tree of life tree
Humans are just the tree's recent bud.
The tree of common descent from an ancestral line.

How is theirs' --Darwin's and Mendel's concepts– the greatest idea?

Evolution is five concepts not one:

  1. differential survival rates, called selection
  2. gradual change in populations
  3. common descent
  4. natural selection in the evolution of adaptive responses

Stasis, or unchanging stability, was replaced by change that is imperceptible and not special-- that is a special creation is not needed to explain life.

What are the nine main points of the first chapter that are developed by the rest of their book: The Dominant Animal?

That all populations evolve was the concept was intuitively and experimentally seen by both:

Wallace in Indonesia and Darwin in South America:

Wallace's line

Wallace's line between Bali and Lomboc, also separating Borneo from Sulawesi suggesting that the animals and plants on the eastern and Asian side of the line differ markedly from the Australasian and western side of the line. These two groups evolved in isolation from one another after the sea level rose at the close of the last ice age.

selection as a means of speciation

Galapagos Islands that Darwin described.

Islands in Time

Young Charles Darwin, upon his return from these islands, shared his tagged finches, seen below, with the ornithologist John Gould who subsequently informed Darwin that he had collected not the same (one) species of finch, but three species of finches on these islands. As Darwin checked his field notes and recognized that the specimens came from separate islands with divergent conditions he confronted an awful truth. He began to realize that species could vary, change over time, and that he now had to explain how that could possibly occur, because scientists argued that species could not change.


The specimens of birds Darwin took away.

  1. FInches or Geospiza speciation in the Galapagos Islands
  2. birds in the Bahamas archipelago
  3. moths and industrial air pollution
  4. fruit flies and strains of flu viruses
  5. bacterial immunity to antibiotics


A tortoise from the Galapagos, Islands.

Artificial selection, sheep in a meadow


The descent of humans, or human evolution is complicated.

What Genes do is to create internal conditions so creatures can respond

Evolution and environment, reveal that ecology is partners with the genes for

    1. adaptive or
    2. maladaptive outcomes

Evolution explosion; at about the Cambrian Period in the earth's past adaptive radiation took a huge leap forward; ultimately leading to vertebrates that were our ancestors.


Vocabulary Terms book

  • I) Descent
  • Mendel & Darwin
  • limitations of natural selection & inheritance,
  •             Manchester UK,
  •             genotype vs. phenotype,      
  •             diversity, diversification,
  • Two parts of an ecosystem:
  •             inorganic or abiotic – means never having been alive &
  •             organic or biotic– means living or once alive,
  • II) Variation
  • diversity, diversification,
    • inorganic & organic limitations,
    • biotic species,
    • predator – prey relations,
    • populations,
    • warblers’ song,
    • Monarch butterflies,
    • mimicry,
    • natural selection,
    • DDT resistance.
  • iii) Source
  • origins & loss in descent, 
    • ratio
    • traits
    • "deep-time"
    • missing links
      • tiktaalik
      • archaeopterix
    • Paleolithic
    • Neolithic
    • tool-making
    • rock-solid
  • iv) Family trees
  • descent from common ancestor, 
    • epigenesis,
    • acquired traits,
    • Acheulian,
    • hominin and hominid,
    • “great leap forward” or
    • cultural revolution,
    • wetware


The Dominant Animal: 1) Darwin and Mendel's legacy

Storm over the Amazon, Diversity of Life

Readings | Vocabulary | Description | Overview | Assignments | Lectures | Index of this course | Grades

technology index learn science index learn gene index learn social science index learn photograph index learn Darwin Index