Guide Molecular theory of evolution : outline of a physico-chemical theory of the origin of life

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Schaum's Outline of Group Theory. Schaum's outline of group theory. An Outline of Theory of Semantic Information.

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About this book

Thus, while it is custom to separate the study of plants botany from that of animals zoology , and the study of the structure of organisms morphology from that of function physiology , all living things share in common certain biological phenomena—for example, various means of reproduction , cell division , and the transmission of genetic material.

Biology is often approached on the basis of levels that deal with fundamental units of life. At the level of molecular biology , for example, life is regarded as a manifestation of chemical and energy transformations that occur among the many chemical constituents that compose an organism.

As a result of the development of increasingly powerful and precise laboratory instruments and techniques, it is possible to understand and define with high precision and accuracy not only the ultimate physiochemical organization ultrastructure of the molecules in living matter but also the way living matter reproduces at the molecular level. Especially crucial to those advances was the rise of genomics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Cell biology is the study of cells—the fundamental units of structure and function in living organisms.

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Cells were first observed in the 17th century, when the compound microscope was invented. Before that time, the individual organism was studied as a whole in a field known as organismic biology; that area of research remains an important component of the biological sciences. Population biology deals with groups or populations of organisms that inhabit a given area or region. Included at that level are studies of the roles that specific kinds of plants and animals play in the complex and self-perpetuating interrelationships that exist between the living and the nonliving world, as well as studies of the built-in controls that maintain those relationships naturally.


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Those broadly based levels— molecules , cells, whole organisms, and populations—may be further subdivided for study, giving rise to specializations such as morphology , taxonomy , biophysics, biochemistry, genetics , epigenetics , and ecology. A field of biology may be especially concerned with the investigation of one kind of living thing—for example, the study of birds in ornithology , the study of fishes in ichthyology , or the study of microorganisms in microbiology.

Their results gave credence to the idea that simple substances in the warm primordial seas gave rise to the chemical building blocks of organisms. In the second stage of chemical evolution, the simple organic molecules such as amino acids that formed and accumulated joined together into larger structures such as proteins. The units linked to each other by the process of dehydration synthesis to form polymers. The problem is that the abiotic synthesis of polymers had to occur without the assistance of enzymes.

What is Chemical Evolution?

In addition, these reactions give off water and would, therefore, not occur spontaneously in a watery environment. Sydney Fox of the University of Miami suggested that waves or rain in the primitive environment splashed organic monomers on fresh lava or hot rocks, which would have allowed polymers to form abiotically. When he tried to do this in his laboratory, Fox produced proteinoids—abiotically synthesized polypeptides. The next step in chemical evolution suggests that polymers interacted with each other and organized into aggregates, known as protobionts.

Protobionts are not capable of reproducing, but had other properties of living things.

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Scientists have successfully produced protobionts from organic molecules in the laboratory. In one study, proteinoids mixed with cool water assembled into droplets or microspheres that developed membranes on their surfaces. These are protobionts, with semipermeable and excitable membranes, similar to those found in cells.

In the final step of chemical evolution, protobionts developed the ability to reproduce and pass genetic information from one generation to the next. Some scientists theorize RNA to be the original hereditary molecule.

Short polymers of RNA have been synthesized abiotically in the laboratory. This implies that RNA molecules could have replicated in prebiotic cells without the use of protein enzymes. Variations of RNA molecules could have been produced by mutations and by errors during replication. Natural selection , operating on the different RNAs would have brought about subsequent evolutionary development.

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This would have fostered the survival of RNA sequences best suited to environmental parameters, such as temperature and salt concentration. As the protobionts grew and split, their RNA was passed on to offspring. In time, a diversity of prokaryote cells came into existence. Under the influence of natural selection, the prokaryotes could have given rise to the vast variety of life on Earth.