Where did altruism come from? In-Class Discussion for Dec. 6th

header-logo-2So far as we’ve seen, selection favors traits beneficial to the individual. In that case, how did altruism evolve? The concept of group selection offers a compelling perspective…

Once again, we’re going beyond what’s in our textbooks to look at some related topics that connect with more recent developments in Biology. Today, we’ll consider portions of a Science Friday interview with EO Wilson and TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt below should provide a nice introduction to the concept of group selection, another means by which species can change over time.

Also included here are excerpts from The Social Conquest of Earth in case you’d like to get more familiarized with group selection.


Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Evolution in the Landscape

12862_2013_article_2375_fig2_htmlFor this challenge, you can utilize observations you’ve made in the past or go outdoors again. If you’d like to work on this challenge as one of your four required for the Naturalist Perspective part of the course, you may submit the blog post for it by the end of the day on Dec. 6th.

  1. Pick an organism that you’ve seen at Site Alpha, Beta or Gamma.
  2. Perform some informational research to see if you can find out the evolutionary history of this organism. Try to answer these questions in the course of your research:
    • How old is this species or its family, evolutionarily speaking? Apidae family of bees, for example, arose about 87 million years ago, while it’s thought that the honey bee we know today came into being around 2-3 million years ago; contrast that with the Deep Look video below, which tells us that sea otters as a species are only about 1.6 million years old.
    • What species are this organism most closely related to? What characteristics do these species have in common?
    • What kind of common ancestor gave rise to all these species? This might be a challenging question to answer.
    • When did that common ancestor arise? The common ancestor of all bees, for example, appeared 135 million years ago.
  3. Write a blog post summarizing what you’ve been able to find out.

Class Prep on Dec. 6th: Evolution

colors-2-_custom-afc93498ec5df91f516ee25aa3141c750524cd16-s700-c85For class on Dec. , please do the following:

  • Read Biology 20.1, 20.3, 20.4 (20.2 optional) or EO Wilson’s Life on Earth chapter 3
  • Listen to this news story about color and be prepared to answer these questions in class: (a) what selective pressure(s) are mentioned in the news story? (b) what is the result of the pressures?
  • Also, to get some perspective on (cosmic) evolution through a short oral history of the universe, listen to the “What Are The Origins Of The Universe?” TED Radio Hour segment. The rest of the episode has some fantastic perspectives on biological evolution as well.

If you’re curious about how some butterfly wings take on vivid colors, give this Deep Look video a watch.