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This module focuses on how evolution occurs and accounts for the abundance of life on earth. It summarises the evidence for evolution drawing examples from morphological and anatomical structures, including physiological and biochemical processes.
The course emphasises variation among life forms as the fundamental basis for evolution arising from environmental factors and mutations that act on the genes, which are the basic units for inheritance. When these genetic changes in a population are constantly acted upon by a variety of environmental pressures, organisms with better-suited genes to the changing environment survive, reproduce and multiply. These organisms are favoured by the process of natural selection, which continues to act on the population, over successive generations, until a population that at one time could interbreed not longer can do so. This leads to a population split that gets divided into two or more species.
The course also examines some of the isolation mechanisms leading to species formation including those that result into species diversity through adaptive radiation. The course further examines some aspects of human evolution and provides information on how humans with their developed brain have influenced the course of evolution through the knowledge acquired by farming, genetic engineering and medicine.
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