Natural Selection: Charles Darwin & Alfred Russel Wallace (2 of 3)

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Selection of Traits
In this struggle for existence, survival and reproduction do not come down to pure chance. Darwin and Wallace both realized that if an animal has some trait that helps it to withstand the elements or to breed more successfully, it may leave more offspring behind than others. On average, the trait will become more common in the following generation, and the generation after that.

Pigeon breeding
 

As Darwin wrestled with natural selection he spent a great deal of time with pigeon breeders, learning their methods. He found their work to be an analogy for evolution. A pigeon breeder selected individual birds to reproduce in order to produce a neck ruffle. Similarly, nature unconsciously “selects” individuals better suited to surviving their local conditions. Given enough time, Darwin and Wallace argued, natural selection might produce new types of body parts, from wings to eyes.

Left: The carrier pigeon (bottom left) and the Brunner pouter (bottom right) were derived from the wild rock pigeon (top).
• Carrier pigeon image courtesy of The Pigeon Cote.
• Brunner pouter image courtesy of Layne’s Pigeon Site.
• Rock dove image courtesy of Dr. Antonio J. Ferreira © California Academy of Sciences
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Spanish translation of Understanding Evolution For Teachers from the Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology.