This series of pages is designed to expand your knowledge and interest in the biology of organisms and their evolutionary history. Increasingly, as biology departments expand their curricula toward cellular and molecular biology and genetics, the biology of organisms gets short-changed. Certainly there are exciting, fundamental, and money-making advances in cellular and molecular biology, but that does not mean that organismal biology is stagnant or uninteresting.

This set of links was originally associated with a course called Paleobiology, taught in the Department of Geology at the University of California, Davis. There is no academic break between biology and paleobiology, so I have felt it was both appropriate and necessary to include a lot of information that has been gathered from living organisms.

This is very much a work in progress, and I make no apologies for shortcomings. If you find portions you don't like, let me know, and tell me how you think I should improve them.

Some of these Web pages are only accessible from a UC Davis E-address: in other words, they won't work from your non-University address. You might have to go to the library!@!

Studying Evolution

Mini-Essays and Sub-sections

How Evolution Works

Scattered through this section I'm also placing some journal references to short pieces on the principles of evolution. Many of them are from Current Biology. This journal is not general access, and I try not to use such journals. However, most major universities probably have an E-subscription to it. Otherwise you might have to go to the library (horrors!).
Conway Morris, S. 2006. Evolutionary convergence. Current Biology 16: R826-827.
Erwin, D. H. 2006. Evolutionary contingency. Current Biology 16, R825-826.
Sniegowski, P.D., and H. A. Murphy. 2006. Evolvability. Current Biology 16: R381-384.

How Fast Can Evolution Be?

The Economics of Evolution

You would predict that organisms would evolve to save as much resources as possible: food, stored energy (tissues, chemicals), energy, etc.. And many times they do. However, we can all think of machines that "waste" energy yet are very successful: military jet fighters, over-engined sports cars, and so on. So dramatically energy-consuming organisms might be selected for in some circumstances. I'm going to list here some cases where simple economic factors may have molded the evolution of the organism concerned.

The Game Theory of Evolution

Pfeiffer, T., and M. A. Nowak. 2006. Digital cows grazing on digital grounds. Current Biology 16: R946-949. [Evolution, cheating, and the Internet.]

Sexual Reproduction and Mate Choice

I don't feel that I'm obsessed with sex: but there are some wonderful examples of natural selection and evolution here!

Sperm Competition

Parental Conflict

The interests of males and females may not always be identical. This sets up the possibility of subtle warfare between the sexes, especially in matters of reproduction.

Coevolution: Symbiosis

Ants and plants

Ants and acacia plants
  • Mostly about the acacias, from Wayne's Word

    Ants that grow gardens of fungus

    Co-operation in hunting

    December 7, 2006. Groupers and moray eels co-operate to hunt.

    Squid and luminescent bacteria

    Moran, N. A. 2006. Symbiosis. Current Biology 16, R866-871.

    Coevolution: Plants and Pollinators

    Specific plant/animal partnerships in pollination

    This section updated August 16, 2010.
    All links checked, September 28, 2007.

    Coevolution: Plants and Seed Dispersal

    Seed dispersal by non-biological agents

    Explosive seed dispersal by the dwarf mistletoe.

    Explosive spore dispersal by fungi

    Seed dispersal by biological agents

    Coevolution: Predators and Prey

    Coevolution: Herbivores and Plants

    Coevolution: Mimicry

    Coevolution: Parasites

    Coevolution: Societies and Sociobiology


    Is evolution going on now in human populations?

    The short answer is YES, OF COURSE!

    Molecular Evolution

    The Case of the Cambrian Explosion

    The Case of the Cenozoic Mammal Radiation

    Primate and Human Evolution


    The Senses: Sight, Smell, Hearing, and so on.

    This section last updated September 28, 2005.
    All links checked October 5, 2007.

    Weird and wonderful things that have been selected for survival

    Bioluminescence in the Dark

    This section last updated February 9, 2008.
    All links checked, October 5, 2007

    Ecology and Paleoecology

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