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An Introduction to
Ecology and Evolution
• The word first came into use in 1869 by Ernest Haeckel
• He based ecology on the Greek word oikos, meaning home or
• Ecology is the study of the relationships of organisms to their
environment and to one another
• Genetic change in a population of organisms over time
The Interaction of Ecology and Evolution
• Ecology and evolution are intimately related because and organism’s
ecological situation directs its evolution, and the organism’s response
to its ecological situation may be evolutionary
• Many of the evolutionary solutions to ecological problems can be viewed as
adaptations, genetically determined features that become or are becoming
prevalent in a population because they improves an organism’s ability to
survive and reproduce in a particular environment
• “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
(Th. Dobzhansky); this is particularly true for ecology, since our
current ecological explanations of nature are predicted on the concept
of evolution
Proximate and Ultimate Explanations of
the Natural World
• Proximate explanations offer immediate causes for a particular
• Ultimate explanations provide historical reasons for observed
ecological phenomena
• Thus, the difference between them is in outlook: between thinking
over a relatively recent time scale (the time scale over which
individuals live and die) versus an historical time scale (geological
The Nature of Science
Its Essence, Power, and Limitations
• It’s a fallible enterprise
• Gives only tentative results
• Provides us with methods by which we can arrive
at justified beliefs
• Theories are often confirmed is by making
successful predictions
• It has tremendous explanatory potential
• Hypotheses can be invalidated or gain credibility
based on inference rather than observation