Figure 19.0.1: Living things may be single-celled or complex, multicellular organisms. They may be plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, or archaea. This diversity results from evolution. (credit "wolf": modification of work by Gary Kramer; credit "coral": modification of work by William Harrigan, NOAA; credit "river": modification of work by Vojtěch Dostál; credit "fish" modification of work by Christian Mehlführer; credit "mushroom": modification of work by Cory Zanker; credit "tree": modification of work by Joseph Kranak; credit "bee": modification of work by Cory Zanker)
All life on Earth is related. Evolutionary theory states that humans, beetles, plants, and bacteria all share a common ancestor, but that millions of years of evolution have shaped each of these organisms into the forms seen today. Scientists consider evolution a key concept to understanding life. Natural selection is one of the most dominant evolutionary forces. Natural selection acts to promote traits and behaviors that increase an organism’s chances of survival and reproduction, while eliminating those traits and behaviors that are to the organism’s detriment. But natural selection can only, as its name implies, select—it cannot create. The introduction of novel traits and behaviors falls on the shoulders of another evolutionary force—mutation. Mutation and other sources of variation among individuals, as well as the evolutionary forces that act upon them, alter populations and species. This combination of processes has led to the world of life we see today.
Connie Rye (East Mississippi Community College), Robert Wise (University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh), Vladimir Jurukovski (Suffolk County Community College), Jean DeSaix (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Jung Choi (Georgia Institute of Technology), Yael Avissar (Rhode Island College) among other contributing authors. The OpenStax College name, OpenStax College logo, OpenStax College book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the creative commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University. For questions regarding this license, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/185cbf87-c72...email@example.com.