Genetic Variation and Evolution

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This topic straddles material that falls into two important areas of your A-level syllabus: genetics and evolution. The link between these topics may not be clear to you, and so this module will guide you through some of the complex ways in which these topics are related. You will start by discovering the ideas behind the Modern Synthesis, before investigating concepts such as genetic drift, adaptive landscapes, phenotypic plasticity and heritability.

These topics include several reading resources, including research reviews and some evolutionary websites that contain lots of useful information and case studies. You will need to read these resources as you work through a number of tasks. Questions for consideration and discussion are also included.

If you are interested in this topic, there are many more open-access sources of information available to you. However, when using these sources, be aware that:

• Some websites may not support the widely-accepted scientific view of evolution by natural selection, favouring a more creationist approach. This resource will not consider the somewhat meaningless debate between advocates of evolution and creationism, as there is no point is comparing an objective approach to explaining life on earth (science) with a subjective approach to explaining life on earth (faith). This site will focus on widely-accepted scientific theories that are based on hypothesis testing and evidence. If you stick to using scientific articles and science-department websites you should be okay.
• The literature for this topic involves a lot of advanced mathematics. Please do not be put off by this! When you progress to university, these equations and models will become a lot clearer. This topic will just give you a “taster” of some of the key concepts involved in evolutionary genetics.

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