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History Of The Environment Essay

2203 words - 9 pages

What is the most significant set of theories that explain the evolutionary history of our natural world and ongoing environmental change?

The origin of life and earth is still one of the greatest mysteries scientists have yet to solve. Modern day science and technology allow us to make theoretically correct assumptions about the past. According to research, it is evident that the earth’s environment and life have been evolving since the beginning of time, which is still evident today as ecosystems and environments continue to change. Three theories that help explain the evolutionary history of our natural world and ongoing environmental change include natural selection, neutral theory of ...view middle of the document...

However, with time the environment began to change, oxygen began to accumulate in the atmosphere. This change was catastrophic for primitive bacteria; the build-up of oxygen was poisonous for early anaerobic life forms. “This early oxygen crisis, however, created an opportunity and led to important new evolutionary changes as life responded to this challenge with metabolic innovations that made use of the newly-available oxygen. Organisms evolved which used oxygen in their metabolic cycles to get more energy out of their food—twenty times more than anaerobic organisms get.” (Mojzsis, 2001) Life on earth experienced a colossal change as primitive bacteria began to disappear and multi-cellular aerobic organisms began to emerge. The significance of aerobic bacteria appearing during the same time as the shift in oxygen levels supports the importance of natural selection and the role it plays in evolution. Natural selection, formulated by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, is the theory that there is constant competition for survival in nature and life forms with the best ability to adapt to the changing environment continue to survive and populate the environment. During this time photosynthetic life evolved to incorporate oxygen in its metabolic cycle and therefore was able to survive the changes occurring in the environment however anaerobic life forms could not perform the same function of adaptability leading to a catastrophic decrease in their population. Another example that helps demonstrate natural selection’s importance in the evolution of life is the event of Snowball Earth. During the Cryogenian Period temperatures fell to -75 degrees Celsius and the earth was completely covered in glaciers. During this event majority of life forms that had evolved over 3 billion years were unable to adapt and died out except for extremophiles, more specifically cyanobacteria, a type of bacteria that is resistant and adaptive to tremendous environmental stress. Scientists believe Snowball Earth to be the event triggering diversity of life. Natural selection is one of the reasons vastly different life forms have occupied earth’s environments since the Archean Eon.
In addition to natural selection, neutral theory of molecular evolution also contributes to understanding the evolutionary history of our natural world. Neutral theory proves that gene variations are a result of mutations within a population independent from natural selection. Author Motoo Kimura (2003) explains “According to the neutral theory, the overwhelming majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level, such as DNA base substitutions and amino acid replacements, are caused not by Darwinian natural selection but by random fixation of selectively neutral or very nearly neutral mutants under continued mutation pressure.” In other words, small mutations that occur over time contribute to the evolution of life however, the environment is not an influencing factor in the changes...

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