Peacocks As An Example Of The Natural Selection Theory

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The three major scientist Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Charles Lyell, who made major contribution to the growth of the natural selection theory. Their ideas, what they mean, and how they were brought forward will be discussed and compared along with a few simple examples for a better understanding.

Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace::

Darwin did not return the same after his voyage on the HMS Beagle. He came back with a theory. Figuring in out for five years and publishing a detailed version of his theory twenty years later about how evolutionary change took place.(Darwin, Page 1) His theory was that all organisms had a common ancestor and every species changed over time in their own unique way, due to their circumstances.( Lecture Jan 31) His mechanism on evolution claimed that some organisms by virtue had ‘useful’ characteristic, and hence had the better end of the stick (More chances of surviving and reproducing than other organisms.) Furthermore that the majority of the ‘useful’ traits would be passed on. When speaking of common ancestry in Darwin theory, he explains how all life structure that is created is from a relative, which experienced a progression of changes to end up progressively complex with time and the species we see and are today have a common ancestor in a way. (Lewens,2006)

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A better understanding of natural selection could be processed by using giraffe as an example. Imagine, a jungle with two kind of giraffe’s, long neck and shorts necks. One day all the short trees disappeared due to a natural disaster. Giraffes with short necks would soon start to develop some difficulties in getting its required nutrition, and over time, none would remain. Leaving the giraffe with the long necks who never faced such difficulties to continue its legacy. This was because the long giraffe has ‘useful’ characteristics. Hence we will see an evolution of long neck giraffes.

Another example of natural selection, can be seen be seen in our world now by looking at peacocks. Ever seen a peacock short-tailed peacock without beautiful feathers? Well, they are pretty rare, this is because female peacocks tend to chose peacocks with long beautiful tails. Hence the ones who produce more offspring’s (passing on their genes) and over time being the larger part of the population (Darwin,1859) This behavior creates limitations on the unattractive peacocks for not only producing offspring’s but their legacy overall…this could eventually even lead to their extinction.

Alfred’s Russel Wallace’s theory was known as the Sarawak Law, which was not very different from Darwin’s law. Wallace quoted “every species has come into existence coincident on both space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species”. Wallace law was a speculation about the progression of comparable organic frames in similar places in a dynamic order. The possibility that a vast populace today would all be able to be followed back to a common precursor. The uniform contrasts which developed over time due the to natural selection , populaces that share normal plummet won’t really look like one another. Every populace may have been isolated into discrete districts, or environmental specialties, in which they bit by bit wound up specific to their adapted environment (Lewens,2006) However the law was not evolutionary, it was something Darwin called “the law of the succession of types”.(Wyhe, 2014:638) Wallace and Darwin often had shared their ideas with each other and they both had similar viewpoints and agreed with each other , however while Wallace stayed out in nature discovering, Darwin published his work. (Lecture 5th February)

As Wallace shared the same view point on natural selection, the theory of an example would remain same; example could be the peppered moths and black moths. Due to coal and pollutions, tree trunks had turn black. During which we saw an increase in the number of peppered moths being eaten while the black moths survived due to their camouflage. Hence the peppered moths become numbered and over time may disappear while the black moth would continue to amplify by producing offspring and surviving. (Saey,2016)

Charles Lyell:

Father of geology. Lyell in many way supported what had been said by both Darwin and Wallace, moreover related it to Uniformitarianism, work of James Hutton he strongly supported. Everything has developed at its own pace and no catastrophic event has caused its formation nor extinction. It can be said that Darwin related a lot of his works theory to Lyell as it validated his work. Lyell work took stepped over many controversial boundaries as it went against many religious believes, but more importantly scientists loved it as it provided evidence and seemed more logical/rational

Example for a better understanding, we can look at the earth. It was all developed over a slow, steady period of time, the heat in the center of the earth creates concurrent wave, which creates a movement of the tectonic plate which finally moves the earths continent. Looking at where every land and ocean are from where they used to be, to where they are now. We can tell this by looking at the PANGEA map furthermore, if not the past we can see the present and future on how the countries move little by little every time since satellite images.

Another example could be the formation of the mountains, like the Himalayas. As mention earlier about how each continent moves at its given pace and not by catastrophic event. India was at one point placed below Africa, but slowly moved its way up into Asia, merging and creating the Himalayas due to the impact, Which still continue to rise, bit by bit every year. (Bishop2019).


When looking over the works of the 3 scientist, we see a positive correlation between their work and how they all support each others work in some way. It is said that before Darwin let for his journey on the Beagle he had read the principles of geology, a book by Charles Lyell. Furthermore we should remember that Darwin was young and inexperienced and not only that but his actual field of study was geology, so we could say without doubt that Charles Lyell had an impact on his theory.(Vorzimmer,1969:530)

Often it is said that Darwin had stole Wallace idea, while he was out doing the dirty work. But when seen from a rational point, each helped one another in some way. Wallace may have had the idea, but not the resources to explain it, in 1855 he distributed a fundamentally inventive hypothesis of how development occurred, excluding natural selection (as Darwin had not yet contributed), which did not really make an evolutionary change (Whye,2013) until Darwin.

When you look back at history, we can not pinpoint who stole or used whose theory, as each individual not only did they help each other in unique ways of their own but needed each other. Without Darwin, Wallace’s theory would not have been strong enough and vice versa, and without Lyell their entire theory would not have been strong enough.


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