The book is homage to Charles Darwin. It reassessed Darwin and his theory of evolution. Systematic synthesis of Darwinian concepts in the contemporary perspective of research and innovations are the focal points of this book. The Asiatic Society had provided research materials to Darwin for his famous work on evolution. This volume includes works of the scientists who are continuing with Darwin's specimens in the Bird division of Natural History Museum of United Kingdom. There are articles on valuable and enigmatic fossil findings from China, Indonesia and India. Detail description of the fossil remains is given together with their evolutionary implications and settlement histories in Asia. Evolution is viewed from the bio-cultural view point. Recent concepts and researches on evolution from the perspective of molecular biology are discussed. Bio-engineering and genomic programming points out modern techniques for understanding evolution. Above all there are discourses on population structure, biological framework for understanding people of Indian subcontinent. Genomic and cultural studies have established the antiquity of Indian population. Highly acclaimed findings substantiated by DNA analysis of Indian people both of modern and ancient are discussed. Much of the myths in respect to peopling of India is unravelled in this book.
Ranjana Ray is a former professor of the Department of Anthropology, Calcutta University. She has been conferred with Emeritus Fellowship by UGC considering her highly acclaimed contribution in anthropology. She is an elected member of the executive body of the International Union for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, a body of the UNESCO. She is the Anthropological Secretary of the Asiatic Society. There are a number of publications to her credit published in reputed scientific journals in India and abroad.
Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay is the Director, Centre for Research in Nano Science and Nano Technolgoy; Professor in Biochemistry and Biotechnology; Pro Vice Chancellor Academic, Calcutta University; President, Society of Biological Chemists (India); President, West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology; Fellow of Indian Academy of Science (Bangalore); Fellow of National Academy of Sciences, India (Allahabad); Biological Science Secretary, The Asiatic Society, Kolkata. His works and research findings are published both in international and national publications.
Samir Banerjee is the former Hiralal Chaudhuri Professor, Department of Zoology, Calcutta University; Fellow of the West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology; Former expert Member, West Bengal Biodiversity Board; Hony. Secretary, the Zoological Society, Kolkata. He is working on Functional Ecology of Wetland, Mangrove and Waste fed ecosystem. He has published 130 scientific papers and authored a number of text and reference books. He is a member of the Biological Science Subcommittee of the Asiatic Society.
Charles Robert Darwin, the British naturalist, was born in 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. Darwin believed that all life forms had evolved from a few common ancestors as a result of a gradual process spanning millions of years. He became famous for this theory of evolution and natural selection.
His Voyage on H.M.S. Beagle, which started in 1831, opened him to the ideas of natural selection. When the Beagle, which was on a British Science expedition around the world, reached South America, Darwin found fossils of many extinct animals. He noticed that many of these extinct animals have characteristics similar to existing modern species. The expedition also took Darwin to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. After comparing the natural diversity in both the places, Darwin observed the existence of many varieties of organisms of a common general type. The geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils that he collected on the voyage intrigued him deeply.
When he came back from the expedition Darwin analyzed all the observations he had made and then put forward his theories on evolution according to which the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called natural selection; and the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process called 'speciation'.
He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime, but it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.
In recognition of Darwin's pre-eminence as a scientist, he was one of only five 19th century non-royal personages of Great Britain to be honoured by a state funeral, and was buried in Westminster, close to Sir Isaac Newton.
The understanding of evolution has come a long way since the days of Darwin. During the first part of this century the incorporation of genetics and population biology into studies of evolution led to a Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution that recognised the importance of mutation and variation within a population. Natural selection then became a process that altered the frequency of genes in a population and this defined evolution. This point of view held sway for many decades but more recently the classic Neo-Darwinian view has been replaced by a new concept which includes several other mechanisms in addition to natural selection. Current ideas on evolution are usually referred to as the Modern Synthesis.
The Modern Synthesis, also called the Synthetic Theory and the Evolutionary Synthesis, was the marriage of Mendelian genetics to Darwinian theories of evolution.
1. It recognises several mechanisms of evolution in addition to natural selection. One of these, random genetic drift, may be as important as natural selection.
2. It recognises that characteristics are inherited as discrete entities called genes. Variation within a population is due to the presence of multiple alleles of a gene.
3. It postulates that speciation is (usually) due to the gradual accumulation of small genetic changes. This is equivalent to saying that macroevolution is simply a lot of microevolution.
In other words, the Modern Synthesis is a theory about how evolution works at the level of genes, phenotypes, and populations, whereas Darwinism was concerned mainly with organisms, speciation and individuals. This was a major paradigm shift. .
Newer perspectives of looking at and understanding evolution are now rapidly evolving. Molecular evolution emerged as a scientific field in the 1960s as researchers from molecular biology, evolutionary biology and population genetics sought to understand recent discoveries on the structure and function of nucleic acids and protein. Molecular evolution is the process of evolution at the scale of DNA, RNA, and proteins. Some of the key topics that spurred development of the field have been the evolution of enzyme function, the use of nucleic acid divergence as a 'molecular clock' to study species divergence, and the origin of non-functional or junk DNA. Recent advances in genomics, including whole-genome sequencing, high-throughput protein characterisation, and bioinformatics have led to a dramatic increase in studies on the topic.
Scientists are now utilising the advantages of model organisms such as drosophila, yeast and mice to explore the relationship between genomes and biological function and evolution. Results from multidisciplinary research utilising genomic, molecular genetics and cell biological techniques are helping to probe important developmental and evolutionary questions.
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