Introduction to Genetics and Evolution

Start Date: 07/05/2020

Course Type: Common Course

Course Link:

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About Course

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution is a college-level class being offered simultaneously to new students at Duke University. The course gives interested people a very basic overview of some principles behind these very fundamental areas of biology. We often hear about new "genome sequences," commercial kits that can tell you about your ancestry (including pre-human) from your DNA or disease predispositions, debates about the truth of evolution, why animals behave the way they do, and how people found "genetic evidence for natural selection." This course provides the basic biology you need to understand all of these issues better, tries to clarify some misconceptions, and tries to prepare students for future, more advanced coursework in Biology (and especially evolutionary genetics). No prior coursework is assumed.

Course Syllabus

This module discusses the definition of the word "evolution" in a biological context, evidence for the truth of evolution and common ancestry of species, and public thoughts and misconceptions about biological evolution. This module is optional and will not be included in the course assessments. There are not class discussion forums for this section, as we feel such discussion can happen on other, non-course-related, sites on this topic (of which there are a great many on the internet).

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Course Introduction

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution An introduction to the major evolutionary changes that have occurred in the human genome and their evolutionary significance. We will learn about the major genes and genes that play an important role in determining our genetic traits, and we will discuss the major changes that occur in the human genome. We will also discuss the major natural and inborn genetic diseases and the possible mechanisms for their development. We will also discuss the role of the environment and of modern human evolution in determining our genetic traits. Upon completing this course, you will be able to: 1. Describe major evolutionary changes that have occurred in the human genome. 2. Explain how the human genome and its genes work. 3. Identify the major genes and genes that are involved in determining a person's genetic traits. 4. Identify the major changes that occur in the human genome. 5. Explain the major natural and inborn genetic diseases that can be prevented by genetic modification of the genome. 6. Identify the major natural and inborn genetic diseases that can be prevented by genetic modification of the genome. 7. Compare the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many other chronic diseases in different populations. This course is part of the iMBA offered by the University of Illinois, a flexible, fully-accredited online MBA at an incredibly competitive price. For more information, please see the Resource page in this course and

Course Tag

Biology Genetics Evolution Genomics

Related Wiki Topic

Article Example
Infection, Genetics and Evolution "Infection, Genetics and Evolution" is abstracted and indexed in:
Infection, Genetics and Evolution "Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics of Infectious Diseases" is a peer-reviewed scientific journal established in 2001. It is published by Elsevier. The (founding) editor-in-chief is Michel Tibayrenc. Topics covered include genetics, population genetics, genomics, gene expression, evolutionary biology, population dynamics, mathematical modeling, and bioinformatics.
Introduction to evolution The modern understanding of evolution began with the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species". In addition, Gregor Mendel's work with plants helped to explain the hereditary patterns of genetics. Fossil discoveries in paleontology, advances in population genetics and a global network of scientific research have provided further details into the mechanisms of evolution. Scientists now have a good understanding of the origin of new species (speciation) and have observed the speciation process in the laboratory and in the wild. Evolution is the principal scientific theory that biologists use to understand life and is used in many disciplines, including medicine, psychology, conservation biology, anthropology, forensics, agriculture and other social-cultural applications.
Introduction to evolution The modern evolutionary synthesis is the outcome of a merger of several different scientific fields to produce a more cohesive understanding of evolutionary theory. In the 1920s, Ronald Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane and Sewall Wright combined Darwin's theory of natural selection with statistical models of Mendelian genetics, founding the discipline of population genetics. In the 1930s and 1940s, efforts were made to merge population genetics, the observations of field naturalists on the distribution of species and sub species, and analysis of the fossil record into a unified explanatory model. The application of the principles of genetics to naturally occurring populations, by scientists such as Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ernst Mayr, advanced the understanding of the processes of evolution. Dobzhansky's 1937 work "Genetics and the Origin of Species" helped bridge the gap between genetics and field biology by presenting the mathematical work of the population geneticists in a form more useful to field biologists, and by showing that wild populations had much more genetic variability with geographically isolated subspecies and reservoirs of genetic diversity in recessive genes than the models of the early population geneticists had allowed for. Mayr, on the basis of an understanding of genes and direct observations of evolutionary processes from field research, introduced the biological species concept, which defined a species as a group of interbreeding or potentially interbreeding populations that are reproductively isolated from all other populations. Both Dobzhansky and Mayr emphasised the importance of subspecies reproductively isolated by geographical barriers in the emergence of new species. The paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson helped to incorporate paleontology with a statistical analysis of the fossil record that showed a pattern consistent with the branching and non-directional pathway of evolution of organisms predicted by the modern synthesis.
Introduction to genetics Genetics is the study of genes—what they are, what they do, and how they work. Genes inside the nucleus of a cell are strung together in such a way that the sequence carries information: that information determines how living organisms inherit various features (phenotypic traits). For example, offspring produced by sexual reproduction usually look similar to each of their parents because they have inherited some of each of their parents' genes. Genetics identifies which features are inherited, and explains how these features pass from generation to generation. In addition to inheritance, genetics studies how genes are turned on and off to control what substances are made in a cell—gene expression; and how a cell divides—mitosis or meiosis.
PLOS Genetics The journal was created with the aim of providing an Open Access venue for researchers in the fields of genetics and genomics to publish research of interest to a broad genetics community. "PLOS Genetics" publishes research on a range of topics including gene discovery and function, population genetics, genome projects, comparative and functional genomics, medical genetics, disease biology, evolution, gene expression, complex traits, chromosome biology, and epigenetics.
Molecular evolution The Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution publishes the journals "Molecular Biology and Evolution" and "Genome Biology and Evolution" and holds an annual international meeting. Other journals dedicated to molecular evolution include "Journal of Molecular Evolution" and "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution". Research in molecular evolution is also published in journals of genetics, molecular biology, genomics, systematics, and evolutionary biology.
Evolution In the early 20th century the modern evolutionary synthesis integrated classical genetics with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection through the discipline of population genetics. The importance of natural selection as a cause of evolution was accepted into other branches of biology. Moreover, previously held notions about evolution, such as orthogenesis, evolutionism, and other beliefs about innate "progress" within the largest-scale trends in evolution, became obsolete. Scientists continue to study various aspects of evolutionary biology by forming and testing hypotheses, constructing mathematical models of theoretical biology and biological theories, using observational data, and performing experiments in both the field and the laboratory.
Introduction to evolution The theory of evolution is widely accepted among the scientific community, serving to link the diverse specialty areas of biology. Evolution provides the field of biology with a solid scientific base. The significance of evolutionary theory is summarised by Theodosius Dobzhansky as "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Nevertheless, the theory of evolution is not static. There is much discussion within the scientific community concerning the mechanisms behind the evolutionary process. For example, the rate at which evolution occurs is still under discussion. In addition, there are conflicting opinions as to which is the primary unit of evolutionary change—the organism or the gene.
Introduction to evolution The field of molecular systematics focuses on measuring the similarities in these molecules and using this information to work out how different types of organisms are related through evolution. These comparisons have allowed biologists to build a "relationship tree" of the evolution of life on Earth. They have even allowed scientists to unravel the relationships between organisms whose common ancestors lived such a long time ago that no real similarities remain in the appearance of the organisms.
Community genetics Community genetics is a recently emerged field in biology that fuses elements of community ecology, evolutionary biology, and molecular and quantitative genetics. Antonovics first articulated the vision for such a field, and Whitham et al. formalized its definition as “The study of the genetic interactions that occur between species and their abiotic environment in complex communities.” The field aims to bridge the gaps in the study of evolution and ecology, within the multivariate community context that ecological and evolutionary phenomena are embedded within. The documentary movie "A Thousand Invisible Cords" provides an introduction to the field and its implications.
Introduction to evolution Scientific evidence for evolution comes from many aspects of biology and includes fossils, homologous structures, and molecular similarities between species' DNA.
Journal of Genetics The Journal of Genetics is a quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal in the field of genetics and evolution. It was established in 1910 by the British geneticists William Bateson and Reginald Punnett and is one of the oldest genetics journals. It was later edited by J.B.S. Haldane, who emigrated to India in 1957, and continued publishing the journal from there.
History of genetics The modern study of genetics at the level of DNA is known as molecular genetics and the synthesis of molecular genetics with traditional Darwinian evolution is known as the modern evolutionary synthesis.
Introduction to evolution Artificial selection has produced a wide variety of plants. In the case of maize (corn), recent genetic evidence suggests that domestication occurred 10,000 years ago in central Mexico. Prior to domestication, the edible portion of the wild form was small and difficult to collect. Today "The Maize Genetics Cooperation • Stock Center" maintains a collection of more than 10,000 genetic variations of maize that have arisen by random mutations and chromosomal variations from the original wild type.
Introduction to evolution Evolution is not a random process. Although mutations in DNA are random, natural selection is not a process of chance: the environment determines the probability of reproductive success. Evolution is an inevitable result of imperfectly copying, self-replicating organisms reproducing over billions of years under the selective pressure of the environment. The outcome of evolution is not a perfectly designed organism. The end products of natural selection are organisms that are adapted to their present environments. Natural selection does not involve progress towards an ultimate goal. Evolution does not strive for more advanced, more intelligent, or more sophisticated life forms. For example, fleas (wingless parasites) are descended from a winged, ancestral scorpionfly, and snakes are lizards that no longer require limbs—although pythons still grow tiny structures that are the remains of their ancestor's hind legs. Organisms are merely the outcome of variations that succeed or fail, dependent upon the environmental conditions at the time.
Introduction to evolution The main ideas of evolution may be summarized as follows:
Tempo and Mode in Evolution Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944) was George Gaylord Simpson's seminal contribution to the evolutionary synthesis, which integrated the facts of paleontology with those of genetics and natural selection.
Sociocultural evolution The current theory of evolution, the modern evolutionary synthesis (or neo-darwinism), explains that evolution of species occurs through a combination of Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection and Gregor Mendel’s theory of genetics as the basis for biological inheritance and mathematical population genetics. Essentially, the modern synthesis introduced the connection between two important discoveries; the units of evolution (genes) with the main mechanism of evolution (selection).
Introduction to evolution Evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life (covered instead by abiogenesis), but it does explain how the extremely simple early lifeforms evolved into the complex ecosystem that we see today. Based on the similarities between all present-day organisms, all life on Earth originated through common descent from a last universal ancestor from which all known species have diverged through the process of evolution. All individuals have hereditary material in the form of genes that are received from their parents, then passed on to any offspring. Among offspring there are variations of genes due to the introduction of new genes via random changes called mutations or via reshuffling of existing genes during sexual reproduction. The offspring differs from the parent in minor random ways. If those differences are helpful, the offspring is more likely to survive and reproduce. This means that more offspring in the next generation will have that helpful difference and individuals will not have equal chances of reproductive success. In this way, traits that result in organisms being better adapted to their living conditions become more common in descendant populations. These differences accumulate resulting in changes within the population. This process is responsible for the many diverse life forms in the world.