Now at the conclusion of my biology career at Northwest, I can finally attest to the “three terms” that have been especially significant throughout this course. I am choosing words that are important to understanding certain biological concepts, but also selecting words that sparked my interest and intrigued me the most to continue learning biology. The three terms or phrases I will be focusing on in this blog are genetics, natural selection, and DNA.
First, I am beginning with genetics because it was my favorite unit throughout the year. Genetics includes the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics. This is a very important concept in biology because it helps us to understand the genotypic and phenotypic differences and similarities in organisms. Without factors like a selective advantage or sexual selection, basic things like Punnett squares can be used to predict the percentage of a population that will show a certain characteristic. It is a biological topic that is not very difficult at the base level, but one that can create a desire to learn more in young students. This is the case for me because I loved being able to predict biological aspects and see them come to fruition. Genetic sequencing is a method that uses genetics to study the relatedness of different organisms. In analyzing the DNA sequences of different species, scientists can use the information to determine which species shared a common ancestor and where certain characteristics developed. This type of research utilizes genetics to learn further about the developments of evolution, leading into the next topic of natural selection.
The second significant term is natural selection and the idea of how it has led to evolutionary changes in many species throughout history. Natural selection is defined as the process whereby organisms that are better adapted to their environment are more likely to survive and have offspring. As different organisms adopted evolutionary adaptations, it is through the process of natural selection that it spread throughout the species. Since the adaptation had a survival advantage, those without the adaptation were more likely to die due to things like predation than those with the adaptation. The adaptation could be a result of different factors, but often it is a result of a mutation that has advantageous results for an organism. This is a very significant term because of its ramifications in nature and the understanding of how many species evolved, including our own. It is true that genetic information can now be used to show certain relationships in species, but one of the interesting things that shows the process of natural selection and evolution taking course is when a species has a vestigial structure. These structures no longer serve an observable purpose but are present anyway because they were around a long time ago in the species. However, through natural selection, the species evolved and no longer had a need for that structure. It is specific instances like that which really intrigue me, making me wonder what parts of my own body are remnants from a time long ago.
The third significant term throughout the course is DNA. Not only is DNA an imperative piece in understanding natural selection and genetics, but it also plays a vital role on the cellular level. Outward appearance and phenotypes are important in environmental interactions, but on the cellular level there is a whole new world of interactions that are vital to the survival of any organism. The DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is found in the nucleus of every cell. Each cell has DNA which is the instruction manual for each cell’s development and reproduction. Different strands of DNA can code for entirely different proteins and altering only a few nucleotides in a sequence can drastically alter the result. Even though many mutations to the nucleotide sequence of DNA can be harmful, for example causing proteins to lose function, it is mutations that can lead to changes in the organism that may help it become better adapted to its environment. DNA is vital in almost all aspects of an organism’s biology and because of this importance, it is my final significant word of the blog. Without it, we wouldn’t even have the two fields of study discussed above in relation to the selected terms. Biology is important to understanding life as we know it and these three words are a great start for any student trying to create a foundation in this field.