Portal:Evolutionary biology

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The Evolutionary Biology Portal

Introduction

Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes that produced the diversity of life on Earth, starting from a single common ancestor. These processes include natural selection, common descent, and speciation.

The discipline emerged through what Julian Huxley called the modern synthesis (of the 1930s) of understanding from several previously unrelated fields of biological research, including genetics, ecology, systematics and paleontology.

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Artist's impression of a major impact event.
The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event was the large-scale mass extinction of animal and plant species in a geologically short period of time, approximately 66 million years ago (mya). It is widely known as the K–T extinction event and is associated with a geological signature, usually a thin band dated to that time and found in various parts of the world, known as the K–T boundary. K is the traditional abbreviation for the Cretaceous Period, and T is the abbreviation for the Tertiary Period. The event marks the end of the Mesozoic Era, and the beginning of the Cenozoic Era. Non-avian dinosaur fossils are only found below the K–T boundary and became extinct immediately before or during the event. A very small number of dinosaur fossils have been found above the K-T boundary, but they have been explained as reworked, that is, fossils that have been eroded from their original locations then preserved in later sedimentary layers. Mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and many species of plants and invertebrates also became extinct. Mammalian and bird clades passed through the boundary with few extinctions, and radiation from those Maastrichtian clades occurred well past the boundary. Rates of extinction and radiation varied across different clades of organisms. Many scientists theorize that the K-T extinctions were caused by one or more catastrophic events such as massive asteroid impacts or increased volcanic activity. Several impact craters and massive volcanic activity in the Deccan traps have been dated to the approximate time of the extinction event, these geological events may have reduced sunlight and hindered photosynthesis, leading to a massive disruption in Earth's ecology. Other researchers believe the extinction was more gradual, resulting from slower changes in sea level or climate.

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  • ...that adaptations enable living organisms to cope with environmental stresses and pressures?
  • ...that maintained gene flow between two populations can also lead to a combination of the two gene pools, reducing the genetic variation between the two groups?
  • ...that all forms of natural speciation have taken place over the course of evolution, though it still remains a subject of debate as to the relative importance of each mechanism in driving biodiversity?
  • ...that despite the relative rarity of suitable conditions for fossilization, approximately 250,000 fossil species are known?
  • ...that genetic sequence evidence thus allows inference and quantification of genetic relatedness between humans and other apes?

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