Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection Essay

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Darwin collected and described thousands of animals and plants. In South America he observed the adaptations of organisms to a variety of habitat from jungle to grassland to mountain habitats. In the temperate regions the species resembled more closely the species of the tropical regions of South America rather than the corresponding species of the temperate regions of Europe. For example, in the grasslands of Argentina there are no rabbits, however, there are rodents that resemble rabbits; these rodents are unrelated to European rabbits but are similar to other rodents in South America. Moreover, the fossils in South America are dissimilar to European fossils but have similarities with extant (i.e. currently living) plants and animals…show more content…
Cuvier founded the science of paleontology and described the differences between the fossil flora and fauna in different strata of rock: he observed that the more recent strata had fossils that more closely resembled extant organisms. Cuvier believed that the discontinuities between fossils in different strata were brought about by catastrophes such as floods which caused the extinction of many species living at a particular time. This interpretation of earth's history is termed catastrophism and was also held by many contemporary geologists. By contrast, Hutton and subsequently Lyell held that geological processes are slow and subtle but that over prolonged periods of time (millions of years) these can lead to major changes; implicit in this viewpoint is an age for the earth radically different from the 6,000 years of the biblical creationists. Other key influences on Darwin were Malthus who had concluded that war and famine were inevitable as the human population grew more rapidly than available resources, and Lamarck who had proposed a theory of evolution based on a continuous process of gradual modification due to acquired characteristics. Both Darwin and Wallace brought together a multitude of facts including the geographical distribution of organisms, comparative morphology of living organisms and their fossil precursors. They postulated that long-term environmental changes including movement of land
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