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Cover image of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior - Audio

Evolution, Ecology and Behavior - Audio

Evolution, Ecology and Behavior - Audio

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10 - Genomic Conflict

Genomic conflict arises when the interests of various genomic elements, such as chromosomes and cytoplasmic organelles, are not aligned. These conflicts arise in two situations: either when one unit is contained within another, as a mitochondrion is contained within a cell, or when inheritance is asymmetrical. Genomic conflict can thus occur within a cell, within an organism, or between two organisms, such as a mother and developing fetus. There have been several steps taken to avoid these conflicts in sexual species, including the fairness of meiosis and the uniparental inheritance of cytoplasmic genomes.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #1

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30 - Energy and Matter in Ecosystems

The movement of matter and energy around the planet is very important, and its study draws on geology, and meterology in addition to chemistry. Energy tends to flow upwards from plantlike producers to herbivores to carnivores before being decomposed by detritovores and cycling back into energy usable by producers, in addition to the photosynthesis or chemosynthesis used by producers to produce energy. Like energy, compounds vital to life such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous flow around the planet in cycles.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #2

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28 - Ecological Communities

The idea of ecological communities has changed tremendously over the past 40 years. The classical view stated that there were so many different species because evolution packed them tightly into the available niches. The modern view emphasizes the idea of trophic cascades, or top-down control in food chains. This emphasized the importance of predation in ecology, although it downplayed the significance of food webs, which showed the interrelated nature of ecosystems better than simple food chains.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #3

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29 - Island Biogeography and Invasive Species

Geography is very important in ecology. Two major systems have been designed to model this, island biogeography and metapopulations. The idea of metapopulations is more recent, and has emerged as the dominant theory. Metapopulations are populations in multiple neighboring areas. The population of a species in any individual area may go extinct, but the metapopulation still survives. The theory of metapopulations has gained momentum in recent years because of its applications to epidemiology, the study of diseases.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #4

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23 - The Logic of Science

While there are many differences between modern science and philosophy, there are still a number of lessons in modes of thought that scientists can take from philosophy. Scientists' ideas about the nature of science have evolved over time, leading to new ideas about falsifiability, creativity, revolutions, and the boundaries and limits of what can be accomplished by different types of science.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #5

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20 - Coevolution

Coevolution happens at many levels, not just the level of species. Organelles such as mitochondria and chloroplasts serve as good intracellular examples. Other living things make up a crucial component of an organism's environment. Coevolution can occur in helpful ways (symbiosis) and in harmful ways (parasitism). Many factors can influence coevolution, such the frequency and degree of interaction.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #6

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33 - Evolutionary Game Theory: Fighting and Contests

The economic concept of game theory can be readily applied to evolution and behavior. By analyzing encounters between organisms as a mathematical "game," important information such as fitness payoffs and the proportions of "strategies" played by each group within a population can be inferred. While oftentimes these games are too simplified to apply directly to actual examples in nature, they are still useful models that help to convey important concepts.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #7

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17 - Key Events in Evolution

The history of life and evolution has been characterized by several key events. These events can be grouped as new hierarchal levels of selection coming into play, as biological units coming together in symbiosis and specialization, or in a number of other ways. Other important events are situations of conflict resolution or information transmission, from the genetic to the cultural level.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #8

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15 - Phylogeny and Systematics

The Tree of Life must be discovered through rigorous analysis. Genetic information is crucial because appearances can be deceiving, and species that look similar can prove to be genetically very dissimilar and not share recent common ancestors. Two criteria, used to determine what the "correct" Tree is, are simplicity and whether the tree maximizes the probability of observing what we actually see.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #9

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27 - Interspecific Competition

Competition among species, or inter-specific competition, can have an even greater effect on selection than competition within species (intra-specific competition). This is often the case in lower density populations. Different species can have positive, neutral, or negative effects on each other's fitness, and the effect species 1 has on species 2 is not necessarily the same that 2 has on 1. The effects that cohabiting species have on each other shapes evolution the same way that selective pressures from within a species or the physical environment shapes it.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #10

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14 - Species and Speciation

Speciation is the process through which species diverge from each other and/or from a common ancestor. There are several definitions of species, most of which focus on reproductive isolation and/or phylogenetic similarities. This can cause some controversy. Speciation can result from geographical separation or ecological specialization. There are stages of speciation in which organisms cluster first into distinct populations before finally becoming different species.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #11

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12 - Sex Allocation

Sex allocation is an organism's decision on how much of its reproductive investment should be distributed to male and female functions and/or offspring. Under most conditions, the optimal ratio is 50:50, but that can change under certain circumstances. Sex allocation determines what sexes sequential hermaphrodites should be at each part of their life as well as how simultaneous hermaphrodites should behave. Some species have more control over the sexes of their offspring than others, and adjust the sex ratios of their offspring depending on the environment and conditions.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #12

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09 - The Evolution of Sex

There are several explanations for the evolution of sex evolution and its continued prevalence. One is facilitating the spread of helpful mutations while hastening the removal of harmful ones. Another is expediting resistance against pathogens. Sex does have several costs compared to asex, such as only giving half your genome to offspring, having to find mates, and the risk of predation and STDs. Overall, the benefits outweigh the costs and sex has a firm hold on the majority of the recent branches of the tree of life.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #13

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24 - Climate and the Distribution of Life on Earth

This lecture provides an overview of the physical aspects of earth's biomes. Temperature, water, latitude, and altitude all come into play. Regions with similar levels of these climatic features tend to have similar life-forms living there. These same climatic features can also affect weather patterns, which in turn affect life by altering habitats and ecosystems. On a large enough scale, such as El Niño, these weather patterns can affect life all over the earth.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #14

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18 - Major Events in the Geological Theatre

Geology and climate have shaped the development of life tremendously. This has occurred in the form of processes such as the oxygenation of the atmosphere, mass extinctions, tectonic drift, and disasters such as floods and volcanic eruptions. Life, particularly bacteria, has also been able to impact the geological makeup of the planet through metabolic processes.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #15