Understanding Evolution: your one-stop source for information on evolution
Home : What is evolution and how does it work?
Natural selection


Natural selection: The basics
Darwin's most famous idea, natural selection, explains much of the diversity of life. Learn how it works, explore examples, and find out how to avoid misconceptions.
This article is located within Evolution 101.

Misconceptions about natural selection and adaptation
Natural selection is often misconstrued as a process that perfects organisms and provides them with exactly what they need. Find out the truth.

Angling for evolutionary answers: The work of David O. Conover
Human activity has certainly affected our physical environment - but it is also changing the course of evolution. This research profile follows scientist David O. Conover as he investigates the impact of our fishing practices on fish evolution and discovers what happened to the big ones that got away.

Battling bacterial evolution: The work of Carl Bergstrom
This research profile examines how the scientist Carl Bergstrom uses computer modeling to understand and control the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals.

Biological warfare and the coevolutionary arms race  Advanced
The rough-skinned newt looks harmless enought but is, in fact, packed full of one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man. Find out how an evolutionary arms race has pushed these mild-mannered critters to the extremes of toxicity and how evolutionary biologists have unraveled their fascinating story.

Comic strip: Survival of the sneakiest  Great for students
This comic follows the efforts of a male cricket as he tries to attract a mate, and in the process, debunks common myths about what it means to be evolutionarily "fit."

From the origin of life to the future of biotech: The work of Andy Ellington
This research profile examines how scientist Andy Ellington has co-opted the power of artificial selection to construct new, useful molecules in his lab. The results of his work could help protect us from terrorist attacks and fight HIV and cancer.

The genes that lie beneath: The work of Leslea Hlusko
Evolutionary biologist Leslea Hlusko’s research takes her from the deserts of Ethiopia, where she hunts for hominid and primate fossils, to a baboon colony in San Antonio where she takes thousands of measurements of the primates' imposing canines. This research profile describes how the two projects are linked by a hunt for genetic variation, a key component of natural selection.

Webcast: Endless forms most beautiful
In lecture one of a four part series, evolutionary biologist Sean Carroll discusses Darwin and his two most important ideas: natural selection and common ancestry.
This lecture is available from Howard Hughes' BioInteractive website.

Darwin and Wallace: Natural selection
Darwin and Wallace came up with the idea of natural selection, but their idea of how evolution occurs was not without predecessors.
This article is located within History of Evolutionary Thought.

Evo in the news: Another perspective on cancer
This news brief, from October of 2007, describes the evolutionary underpinnings of cancer. Recognizing cancer as a form of cellular evolution helps explain why a cure remains elusive and points the way toward new treatments.

Evo in the news: Better biofuels through evolution
This news brief from April 2009 describes how synthetic biologists are using the process of directed evolution to improve the efficiency of biofuel production.

Evo in the news: Conserving the kakapo
This news brief, from April 2006, chronicles how researchers are using evolutionary theory to guide their strategies for conserving a critically endangered parrot - with some impressive results!

Evo in the news: Evolution down under
This news brief, from September of 2008, describes an unusual contagious cancer currently decimating Tasmanian devil populations. Learn about the fascinating interplay between the evolution of the devils and the evolution of the disease.

Evo in the news: Evolution in the fast lane?  Advanced
Have humans, with all of our technological advances, exempted ourselves from further evolution? Perhaps not. This news brief, from February 2008, examines genetic research which suggests that human evolution may haved actually accelerated in our recent history.

Evo in the news: Evolution's dating and mating game
This news brief from May of 2008 describes new research on octopus mating and reveals how evolution can favor some surprising courtship behaviors.

Evo in the news: Quick evolution leads to quiet crickets
The tropical island of Kauai has always been a quiet place, but now it may be getting even more quiet. This news brief, from December 2006, reveals how Kauai's cricket population has evolved into a "chirpless" variety in just a few years.

Evo in the news: Seeing the tree for the twigs  Advanced
Recent research has revealed that, in at least some ways, chimpanzees have evolved more than humans have. This news brief from May 2007 delves into this finding further and, in the process, debunks common misperceptions of human evolution.

Evo in the news: Sex, speciation, and fishy physics  Advanced
More than 500 species of cichlid fish inhabit Africa's Lake Victoria. This news brief from March 2009 explains new research suggesting that the physics of light may have played an important role in cichlid diversification and in the recent drop in their diversity.

Evo in the news: Warming to evolution
Global warming increasingly affects many aspects of our environment—from the sea level to tropical storm strength. But that’s far from the full story. This news brief from July 2006 describes how global warming has already begun to affect the evolution of several species on Earth.

Fire ants invade and evolve  Advanced
Understanding the evolution of fire ants may help scientists control the spread of these pests, which have already taken over much of the U.S.!

A look at linguistic evolution  Advanced
We typically think of evolution occurring within populations of organisms. But in fact, evolutionary concepts can be applied even beyond the biological world. Any system that has variation, differential reproduction, and some form of inheritance will evolve if given enough time. Find out how an understanding of evolution can illuminate the field of linguistics.
This article appears at SpringerLink.

Adaptation: The case of penguins
The process of natural selection produces stunning adaptations. Learn about the history of this concept, while you explore the incredible adaptations that penguins have evolved, allowing them to survive and reproduce in a climate that reaches -60°C!
This article appears at Visionlearning.

Interview: Douglas Futuyma on natural selection  Advanced
This interview with one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of today addresses many aspects of natural selection: how it works, examples, misconceptions, and implications.
This article appears at ActionBioscience.org.