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The hypothesis by Georges Cuvier that each boundary between strata corresponded in time to a catastrophe, such as a flood or drought, that had destroyed many of the species living there at that time

natural selection

Differential success in the reproduction of different phenotypes resulting from the interaction of organisms with their environment


All the changes that have transformed life on earth from its earliest beginnings to the diversity that characterizes it today


The study of the past and present distribution of species

vestigial organ

A structure of marginal, if any, importance to an organism

homologous structure

Structures in different species that are similar because of common ancestry


A view of Earth's history that attributes profound change to the cumulative product of slow but continuous processes


A species of plant or animal found in only one place on earth

artificial selection

The selective breeding of domesticated plants and animals to encourage the occurrence of desirable traits


Ordered division of organisms into categories based on a set of characteristics used to assess similarities and differences, leading to a classification scheme; the branch of biology concerned with naming and classifying the diverse forms of life

Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium

The condition describing a non-evolving population


A change in the DNA of a gene, ultimately creating genetic diversity

directional selection

Natural selection that favors individuals at one end of the phenotypic range

gene pool

The total aggregate of genes in a population at any one time


An important source of genetic variation where small pieces of DNA are copied


The contribution an individual makes to the gene pool of the next generation, relative to the contributions of other individuals

genetic drift

Unpredictable fluctuations in allele frequencies from one generation to the next because of a population's finite size

phenotypic polymorphism

The existence of two or more distinct morphs (discrete forms), each represented in a population in high enough frequencies to be readily noticeable

bottleneck effect

Genetic drift resulting from the reduction of a population, typically by a natural disaster, such that the surviving population is no longer genetically representative of the original population

intersexual selection

Selection whereby individuals of one sex (usually females) are choosy in selecting their mates from individuals of the other sex; also called mate choice

intrasexual selection

A direct competition among individuals of one sex (usually the males in vertebrates) for mates of the opposite sex

gene flow

Genetic additions to or subtractions from a population resulting from the movement of fertile individuals or gametes


A DNA segment very similar to a real gene but which does not yield a functional product; a gene that has become inactivated in a particular species because of mutation

stabilizing selection

Natural selection that favors intermediate variants by acting against extreme phenotypes

founder effect

Genetic drift that occurs when a few individuals become isolated from a larger population, with the result that the new population's gene pool is not reflective of the original population

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