Species & Biodiversity

speciesOrigins of Species & Biodiversity


Darwin described in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life the process leading to the origins of species: populations evolve because heritable variation leads to differential success in survival and reproduction among individuals. Darwin ingeniously ascribed to that process the patterns that he observed in nature, explaining the origins of biodiversity. NeoDarwinian scientists since have synthesised natural selection with genetics and genomics to describe more completely how groups originate. Origins of species & biodiversity science impacts daily life, from taking medication to thwart viral infections to conserving redwood trees to preserve an ecosystem.

The Origins Institute champions these two origins themes. We have hosted two meetings, a workshop titled The Genomic Revolution and the Origin of Humanity and, to celebrate the bicentennial for Darwin’s birth and sesquicentennial for his magnum opus, a conference titled Darwin’s Legacy: Natural Selection as an Organising Principle in Science.

We perform molecular evolution, sequence, and bioinformatics analyses to document genetic change over time (B. Golding); analyse microbial genomes computationally to understand evolutionary mechanisms (R. Morton); identify signature sequences in microbes for taxonomic purposes (R. Gupta); apply biochemical techniques to study antibiotic resistance and its evolution (G. Wright); employ chemical and molecular techniques to elucidate preservation states in palaeontological, achaeological, and forensic remains (H. Poinar); conduct molecular, ecological, and quantitative genetic analyses to relate patterns and processes in microbe populations (JP Xu); use nematodes to investigate cell signalling, proliferation, and differentiation (B. Gupta); adopt computational biological approaches to explore invertebrate skeleton evolution (J. Stone); and study fruit flies and humans to explore speciation through hybrid incompatibility and sexual selection (R. Singh). Please navigate to our People page to acquire additional information.

Recent research activities that caught media attention include:

the origin of antibiotic resistance (coverage in Nature, CBC);

the origin of menopause (coverage in The Guardian, BBC, This View of Life, and The Scientist); interviews on NPR and Nationwide Radio, parts 1 and 2).

We include research interests in origins of species & biodiversity with fundamental associated concepts in our courses. Please mouseclick to our Undergraduate and Graduate pages to obtain additional information.

We have hosted in our Origins Institute Public Lecture Series many world-renowned speakers with expertise in origins of species & biodiversity, among them Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner and celebrated researcher and author Sean B. Carroll.

One member even engaged in an informal debate about evolution.