BIO120H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Jerry Coyne, National Association Of Scholars, Mendelian Inheritance
ProfessorJean Jiang Nash
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Bio120 - Lecture 1 - Course introduction; Introduction to evolutionary biology
Required readings: Chapter 1 in Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne
Recommended reading: New York Times: The Case for Teaching Ignorance
•Check Portal/Blackboard for lab times, info on reading quizzes. Check “My Grades” on Portal
on Sept. 18 (after 5 PM) to determine your lab room #.
•Required course materials: BIO120 lab manual, “Why Evolution Is True,” and “The Struggle
for Existence” (available starting in October, will be posted on Portal as a PDF).
•Lab coat required for labs 2, 3, and 4. Available at U of T Bookstore and from the Cell and
Systems Biology Graduate Union.
•BIO120 Team: Prof. Spencer Barrett (first half), Prof. James Thomson (second half).
•Questions about the course: contact email@example.com. Can address e-mails to Laura
•Academic questions (lecture): 1) optional weekly tutorials with professors (times available on
Portal) and 2) Lecture Discussion Forum on Portal
•Academic questions (lab): office hours
Introduction to evolutionary biology
•Prerequisite knowledge: Mendelian genetics, inheritance, structure of DNA, mitosis and
•Levels of biological organization: Molecules, Cells, Organisms, Populations, Communities,
Ecosystems. This section will focus on population as this is the primary unit of evolution.
Populations are composed of individuals who vary phenotypically.
•Evolutionary biology answers small tractable questions to help answer larger ones (e.g. Why
did sex evolve?)
•Biologists have two types of questions: how (proximate) questions, involve determining the
physiological or genetic mechanisms responsible for aspects of a trait, and why (ultimate)
questions, involve determining the ecological function and adaptive significance of a trait.
•Approaches in evolutionary bio: Observational, Theoretical (develop models - verbal,
graphical, mathematical), Comparative (data from many species), and Experimental (requires
experimental design and statistical analysis).
•Important assumptions about evolution verified by science:!
- organisms on earth have changed through time!
- changes are gradual!
- lineages split by speciation, generating biodiversity!
- all species have common ancestors!
- most evolutionary change results from natural selection, the only process responsible for the
evolution of biodiversity and adaptation
•Biodiversity and adaptation are therefore products of the evolutionary process
•Biodiversity = the variety of life on earth; the number and kinds of living organisms in a given
area, results from genetic variation
•Adaptation = 1) (as a noun) any trait/character/feature that contributes to fitness (how
successful that individual is in transmitting genes to the next generation) by making an
organism better able to survive or reproduce in a given environment, and 2) (as a verb) the
evolutionary process that leads to the origin and maintenance of such traits.
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