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Origin of Species

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Text Preview Darwin’s theory is based on the notion of variation. It argues that the numerous traits and adaptations that differentiate species from each other also explain how species evolved over time and gradually diverged. Variations in organisms are apparent both within domesticated species and within species throughout the natural world. Variations in colors, structures, organs, and physical traits differentiate a multitude of species from one another. Heredity is the mechanism that perpetuates variations, Darwin argues, as traits are passed from parents to offspring. What is important about these variations to Darwin, though, is the way they allow species to adapt and survive in the natural world. He gives numerous examples of variations that illustrate the wondrous adaptations that allow species to survive in their natural environments: the beak that allows the woodpecker to gather insects, the wings that allow the bat to fly, the paddles that allow the porpoise to swim, and so on. Darwin hypothesizes that the minor variations we see within a single species—such as variations in size, shape, and color of organisms—are related to the more distinct variations seen across different species. His theory of evolution explains how variations cause the origin of species. Natural selection is the key component of Darwin’s theory, as it explains the relationship between variation and the eventual evolution of a species. Borrowing from Thomas Malthus’s principle of exponential population growth, Darwin argues that the possibility of infinite growth of population sizes is checked by the limits of geography and natural resources, which will not allow an infinite number of beings to survive. As a result of limited food, water, shelter, and so on, species must engage in a “struggle for existence,” creating competition for survival. What decides, then, which species will survive and which will become extinct? Here is where “natural selection” comes in. Darwin argues that organisms... Show More

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