BASIC BACKGROUND CONCEPTS IN ECOLOGY, GENETICS, ETC.:

Here’s a rough-and-ready list/summary of some basic premises and ideas from various branches of biology that are valuable context for understanding evolutionary thought.  If you're comfortable with most of these -- or they fee at least generally familiar -- you should feel confident in diving into evolutionary concepts and arguments.  If they are NOT so familiar, try to do a little background reading -- or at least touch base with me about what to do.  We will talk about some of this stuff in class, but some neeeds to be pre-installed.  It's particularly important that you can navigate basic ideas of Mendelian genetics, DNA structure and function, and cell cycle.nd Mendelian genetics...). Anyhow, read this list and see what needs filling in for you.  NOTE that you should think of this stuff as minimum background; there is more, but, if you find all of these ideas reasonably familiar/comfortable, you should be able to cope....

NOTE that the textbook has chapters that deal with all of this stuff, mostly in more detail than will be necessary for most of our dicussion.

I. CELL and WHOLE-GENOME CONCEPTS AND  MACHINERY:  These terms and definitions should be comfortable:

    - mitosis:  Asexual eukaryotic cell division: involves duplication of chromosomes in conjunction with cell division, without change in genome.

    - meiosis: Cell division that results in formation of gametes: involves reduction in chromosome number (usually by half), with recombination.  One full meiotic cycle results in formation of four (haploid) gametes from one diploid mother cell. 

    - ploidy: Refers to number of homologous chromosomes per cell: haploid = one set, diploid = two. Mammalian gametes are haploid. Polyploid means??

    - prokaryotic/eukaryotic: lacking or possessing membrane organelles (especially a nucleus) within the cell. Prokaryotes are, informally, various (but extremely divergent) groups of bacteria (some prokaryotes are more closely related to you than they are to other prokaryotes...).

II. GENETICS:

    - chromosome: a physically distinct hunk of DNA within a (eukaryotic) cell

    - gene: crudely, a section of DNA within a chromosome (or microsatellite or whatever) that carries the coding for a product that can, under right conditions be expressed. Different versions of the same gene within a population are alleles.  There might be many alleles of a single gene in a population; your genome can include, at most, two.

    - codon, nucleic acid, base pair, RNA, amino acid (and relationships between)

    - gene expression (transcription and translation) (genes are transcribed to homologous RNA sequences, which are used/translated in the synthesis of corresponding amino acids into proteins(you can review with this Wikipedia article)

    - mutation broadly speaking any change in DNA/gene; more narrowly, a point mutation is a replacement of one base/unit of DNA by another during replication (mitosis or meiosis).

    - genome (and its relation ship to phenotype).

    - inheritance/heritability

III. POPULATION/ECOLOGY

    - gene pool is to genome as population is to individual (sort of)

    - population: aggregate/collection of individuals living in some arbitrarily bounded time and space such that there's a realistic  chance of any two individuals in the population of having a common descendant in not-distant generation. Begs the question of defining an individual (think about it).

    - relationship between reproduction/fertility rates and population growth.  What's exponential growth mean?

    - Does asexual/clonal 'reproduction' produce new individuals?

    - adaptation and niche: Sort of intuitive, but there are some problems with informal/popular notions of these terms: we'll talk about them a bit.