Flashcards for Early Theories of Evolution
Topics 2-3:  Darwin, Natural Selection, and Evidence of Evolution
(16 cards)

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The 19th century English scientist who carried out the necessary research to conclusively document that evolution has occurred and then made the idea acceptable for scientists and the general public. This man did not invent the idea of evolution.

Charles Darwin

The name of the British Naval ship that Charles Darwin sailed on in 1831 as an unpaid naturalist. This voyage took them around the world and lasted for five years.

H.M.S. Beagle

A largely isolated group of islands in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that have plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. It was there that Charles Darwin began to really comprehend what causes evolution to occur.

Galápagos Islands

The relatively rapid expansion and diversification of an evolving group of organisms as they adapt to new ecological niches. This is the process by which one species evolves into two or more species. It occurs as a result of different populations becoming reproductively isolated from each other, usually by adapting to different environments.

adaptive radiation

An evolutionary mechanism that occurs when some individuals of a population are better able to adapt to their environment and, subsequently, produce more offspring. Nature, in effect, selects which members of a population are fit to survive long enough to reproduce and pass on their genes to the next generation. This mechanism of evolutionary change was first described by Charles Darwin.

natural selection

A late 18th and early 19th century English clergyman and pioneer economist who published an extensive article entitled Essay on the Principles of Population. In it he observed that human populations will double every 25 years unless they are kept in check by limits in food supply.

Thomas Malthus

The evolutionary process primarily responsible for the change over generations in wing and body coloration of "peppered" moths living near English industrial cities during the 19th and 20th centuries.

natural selection

Charles Darwin’s 1859 book in which he published his theory of evolution in full for his fellow scientists and for the public at large.

On The Origin of Species

The British naturalist who in 1858 sent Charles Darwin a draft of an essay he had written on natural selection. This scientist was collecting specimens of plants and animals in Southeast Asia at the time. His essay pressured Darwin to quickly finish his own book on natural selection.

Alfred Wallace

A Central European monk who carried out plant breeding experiments between 1856 and 1863. Through these experiments, he discovered that there is a recombination of parental traits in offspring. As a result, children can have a combination of traits different from either parent.

Gregor Mendel

An early 19th century French customs officer whose hobby was collecting ancient stone tools. Since he found these artifacts in association with the bones of extinct animals, he concluded that they must have been made by prehistoric people at the time that those animals lived.

Boucher de Perthes

The biblically oriented approach to learning about the natural world that was declared to not be a science by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. The court also ordered that it cannot be taught as a science in public schools as an alternative or in addition to the mainstream evolutionary theory of the biological sciences.

“creation science”

Where we find abundant evidence of evolution having gone on for millions of years. (Hint: Many museums are loaded with this kind of evidence.)

fossils of ancient life forms found in sedimentary rock layers built up slowly over millions of years

The percentage of living organisms on earth that use the DNA code to store recipes for making the proteins that they need.


The kind of environment in which you would expect to find mostly unique species living.

islands long isolated from the rest of the world (e.g., Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii

The rate of evolution (i.e., fast or slow) for species that mature and reproduce large numbers in a short amount of time. (Hint: Think about how fast insects and microscopic organisms usually evolve.)

very fast