Evidence of common descent of living things has been discovered by scientists working in a variety of fields over many years. This evidence has demonstrated and verified the occurrence of evolution and provided a wealth of information on the natural processes by which the variety and diversity of life on Earth developed. This evidence supports the modern evolutionary synthesis, the current scientific theory that explains how and why life changes over time. Evolutionary biologists document the fact of common descent: making testable predictions, testing hypotheses, and developing theories that illustrate and describe its causes.
Comparison of the DNA genetic sequences of organisms has revealed that organisms that are phylogenetically close have a higher degree of DNA sequence similarity than organisms that are phylogenetically distant. Further evidence for common descent comes from genetic detritus such as pseudogenes, regions of DNA that are orthologous to a gene in a related organism, but are no longer active and appear to be undergoing a steady process of degeneration from cumulative mutations.
Fossils are important for estimating when various lineages developed in geologic time. As fossilization is an uncommon occurrence, usually requiring hard body parts and death near a site where sediments are being deposited, the fossil record only provides sparse and intermittent information about the evolution of life. Evidence of organisms prior to the development of hard body parts such as shells, bones and teeth is especially scarce, but exists in the form of ancient microfossils, as well as impressions of various soft-bodied organisms. The comparative study of the anatomy of groups of animals shows structural features that are fundamentally similar or homologous, demonstrating phylogenetic and ancestral relationships with other organism, most especially when compared with fossils of ancient extinct organisms. Vestigial structures and comparisons in embryonic development are largely a contributing factor in anatomical resemblance in concordance with common descent. Since metabolic processes do not leave fossils, research into the evolution of the basic cellular processes is done largely by comparison of existing organisms’ physiology and biochemistry. Many lineages diverged at different stages of development, so it is possible to determine when certain metabolic processes appeared by comparing the traits of the descendants of a common ancestor. Universal biochemical organization and molecular variance patterns in all organisms also show a direct correlation with common descent.
Further evidence comes from the field of biogeography because evolution with common descent provides the best and most thorough explanation for a variety of facts concerning the geographical distribution of plants and animals across the world. This is especially obvious in the field of island biogeography. Combined with the theory of plate tectonics common descent provides a way to combine facts about the current distribution of species with evidence from the fossil record to provide a logically consistent explanation of how the distribution of living organisms has changed over time.
The development and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, like the spread of pesticide resistant forms of plants and insects provides evidence that evolution due to natural selection is an ongoing process in the natural world. Alongside this, are observed instances of the separation of populations of species into sets of new species (speciation). Speciation has been observed directly and indirectly in the lab and in nature. Multiple forms of such have been described and documented as examples for individual modes of speciation. Furthermore, evidence of common descent extends from direct laboratory experimentation with the artificial selection of organisms—historically and currently—and other controlled experiments involving many of the topics in the article. This article explains the different types of evidence for evolution with common descent along with many specialized examples of each.
Read more about Evidence Of Common Descent: Evidence From Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry, Evidence From Comparative Anatomy, Evidence From Paleontology, Evidence From Geographical Distribution, Evidence From Observed Natural Selection, Evidence From Observed Speciation, Evidence From Artificial Selection, Evidence From Computation and Mathematical Iteration
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