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Natural selection and adaptation

You have probably all heard about Darwin and his famous theory of natural selection. Simply summarized, natural selection determines who survives and who dies. Nature tends to change very slowly unless a meteorite falls or humans intervene too much. The features that contributed our recent ancestors’ survival are likely also the features that contribute to our survival today. Those who have the most of these features are more likely to survive, and so, by every new generation these particular features are reinforced. We say that these features are “evolutionary adaptations”.

Natural selection is often quoted as “the survival of the fittest”, which leads people to thinking that it is all about having the most strength, good looks, intelligence or any such favourable features. Guess what, life is not that simple! Quite often unexpected things happen. In many environments, the individuals most likely to survive are not the strongest or the best looking, but those with many adaptive features. They can more easily develop new skills if their living conditions suddenly change. Sometimes, it is even pure luck that determines if you are selected or not to survive or die.

Photo: adapted from Lur thematic encyclopedia, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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