An organism’s life history is the pattern of growth, development, and reproduction over the course of its life.
Since fitness is a measure of the organism’s reproductive success, we know that natural selection will favour the life history strategy that results in the greatest number of offspring that survive to produce offspring of their own. This has important implications on both survivorship (mortality) and birthrate (fecundity) of an individual in a population, and these are related to the amount of energy that is used to reproduce over give time, known as reproductive effort.
Episode 11 of the Ecology Everywhere Podcast. This week we’re talking about life history strategies, domestication of dogs, and animal development.
Geiger, M., Evin, A., Sanchez-Villagra, M.R., Gascho, D., Mainini, C., Zollikofer, C.P.E. (2017) Neomorphosis and heterochrony of skull shape in dog domestication. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-12582-2
A fundamental question in ecology is the question of how the vast diversity of species that we find on this planet originate.
Key to this is the idea of reproductive isolation, or the group of mechanisms which prevent two groups of living organisms from breeding with each other. Reproductive isolation can be subdivided into two majour groups: prezygotic mechanisms whereby species physically do not mate or have fertilization occur, such as in species living in different habitats or in species choosing not to mate with one another, and postzygotic mechanisms, where fertilization and conception occur, but the embryo either has very low fitness, may be sterile (they are unable to have offspring), or the offspring of the new young are sterile. An example of the latter are the offspring of donkeys and horses, known as mules which, while able to survive on their own, are unable to have viable offspring. Postzygotic mechanisms can occur due to changes in the chromosome number of the offspring, rearrangement of the chromosomes themselves, Haldane’s rule (the sex which has only one of each sex chromosome, such as male humans with their single X and single Y chromosome compared to the females with two X chromosomes, is more susceptible to harmful mutations since they only have one copy of each chromosome), and the Dobzhansky-Muller incompatibility (when random mutations in the genes of two different populations that have divided due to some, potentially geographic, barrier cause the hybrids to not be viable when the populations are mixed again).
The task of classification of organisms has remained a daunting task ever since we humans began to group what we consider to be closely related living beings together.
In the mid 1700s, Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician Carolus Linnaeus wrote the System Naturae, a way of organizing living beings into a hierarchical fashion. Combined with Darwin’s mechanism behind the divergence of species, German biologist Will Hennig established the modern approach to hierarchical classification which we call phylogenetic systematics, or the classification of organisms according to their evolutionary histories.