10 Scientific Laws and Theories You Really Should Know


Evolution and Natural Selection

Evolution and natural selection illustration
A hypothetical (and simplified) example of how natural selection might play out amongst frogs. © 2018 HowStuffWorks

Now that we've established some of the fundamental concepts of how our universe began and how physics play out in our daily lives, let's turn our attention to the human form and how we got to be the way we are. According to most scientists, all life on Earth has a common ancestor. But in order to produce the immense amount of difference among all living organisms, certain ones had to evolve into distinct species.

In a basic sense, this differentiation occurred through evolution, through descent with modification [source: UCMP]. Populations of organisms developed different traits, through mechanisms such as mutation. Those with traits that were more beneficial to survival such as, a frog whose brown coloring allows it to be camouflaged in a swamp, were naturally selected for survival; hence the term natural selection.

It's possible to expand upon both of these theories at greater length, but this is the basic, and groundbreaking, discovery that Darwin made in the 19th century: that evolution through natural selection accounts for the tremendous diversity of life on Earth.