Glossary of Terms Regarding Evolution

Knowing these terms will help increase your knowledge of Darwinism

Learn the correct definitions of evolution terms
A Dictionary in a Library.

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Following are definitions of common terms referring to the Theory of Evolution that everyone should know and understand, though this is by no means a comprehensive list. Many of the terms are often misunderstood, which can lead to an inaccurate understanding of evolution. The links lead to more information on the topic:

Adaptation: Changing to fit a niche or survive in an environment

Anatomy: Study of the structures of organisms

Artificial Selection: Characteristics selected by humans

Biogeography: Study of how species are distributed across the Earth

Biological Species: Individuals that can interbreed and produce viable offspring

Catastrophism: Changes in species that happen because of quick and often violent natural phenomena

Cladistics: Method of classifying species in groups based on ancestral relationships

Cladogram: Diagram of how species are related

Coevolution: One species changing in response to changes in another species that it interacts with, particularly predator/prey relationships

Creationism: Belief that a higher power created all life

Darwinism: Term commonly used as a synonym for evolution

Descent With Modification: Passing down traits that might change over time

Directional Selection: Type of natural selection in which an extreme characteristic is favored

Disruptive Selection: Type of natural selection that favors both extremes and selects against the average characteristics

Embryology: Study of the earliest stages of development of an organism

Endosymbiotic Theory: Currently accepted theory as to how cells evolved

Eukaryote: Organism made of cells that have membrane-bound organelles

Evolution: Change in populations over time

Fossil Record: All known traces of past life ever found

Fundamental Niche: All available roles an individual can play in an ecosystem

Genetics: Study of traits and how they are passed down from generation to generation

Gradualism: Changes in species that happen over long periods of time

Habitat: Area in which an organism lives

Homologous Structures: Body parts on different species that are similar and most likely evolved from a common ancestor

Hydrothermal Vents: Very hot areas in the ocean where primitive life might have begun

Intelligent Design: Belief that a higher power created life and its changes

Macroevolution: Changes in populations at the species level, including ancestral relationships

Mass Extinction: Event in which large numbers of species died out completely

Microevolution: Changes in species at a molecular or gene level

Natural Selection: Characteristics that are favorable in an environment and are passed down while undesirable characteristics are bred out of the gene pool

Niche: ​Role an individual plays in an ecosystem

Organelle: Subunit within a cell that has a specific function

Panspermia Theory: Early theory proposing that life came to Earth on meteors from outer space

Phylogeny: Study of relative connections between species

Prokaryote: Organism made up of the simplest type of cell; has no membrane-bound organelles

Primordial Soup: Nickname given to the theory that life started in the oceans from the synthesis of organic molecules

Punctuated Equilibrium: Long periods of consistency of a species interrupted by changes that happen in quick bursts

Realized Niche: Actual role an individual plays in an ecosystem

Speciation: The creation of a new species, often from evolution of another species

Stabilizing Selection: Type of natural selection that favors the average of the characteristics

Taxonomy: ​Science of classifying and naming organisms

Theory of Evolution: Scientific theory about the origins of life on Earth and how it has changed over time

Vestigial Structures: Body parts that seem to no longer have a purpose in an organism