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Key Ideas

1. There is variation between members of a population of organisms. There may be slight differences in anatomical, physiology and behavioural features among members of the same species.

As each gamete produced by meiosis contains a unique set of alleles and each fertilization event results in the fusion of two gametes containing unique sets of alleles, each offspring will have a unique set of alleles. This means that the phenotypic outcomes for each offspring will differ. These differences are often very small (e.g. one bird may have a beak that is 4 mm longer than another member of that bird species or one mammal might have hairs which are 15 mm in length whilst another has hairs that are 17 mm in length ). Genetic variation results in different individuals of the same species having slightly different phenotypic outcomes.

2. Abiotic and biotic environmental factors determine the likelihood that an organism survives to reproduce.

These can be referred to as selection pressures if, as the Oxford Dictionary of Biology notes, they are "an agent of differential mortality or fertility that tends to make a population change genetically."

Examples of selection pressures include:

- Disease

- Food, Habitat availability

- Predation

- Access to light, water, oxygen etcetera

- Climate/Temperature

3. Those organisms which are best adapted to survive are more likely to survive and reproduce.

These organisms are said to have a selective advantage - They contain alleles which confer traits or characteristics which enhance their chances of surviving and producing offspring. They are more likely to have a high natality.

Note: There is absolutely no guarantee that individual organism in possession of a supposedly advantageous allele survives, reproduces and passes that allele on to the next generation. Possession of an advantageous allele and/or characteristic only increases the probability that a certain allele or combination of alleles or trait is passed on to the next generation. This is a critical point. Whenever you write about natural selection, you should make clear that it is the probability that an allele or SNP or combination of alleles is passed on that is increased or diminished.

Organisms which are poorly adapted to the environment are less likely to survive and reproduce.

These organisms are said to have a selective disadvantage - They contain alleles which confer traits or characteristics which diminish their chances of surviving and producing offspring. They are more likely to have a high mortality.

4. Those organisms that survive and reproduce pass on their alleles to their offspring/the next generation.

5. If individuals carrying a particular allele are more likely to survive and reproduce, it is possible there is a change in the allele frequency and subsequently a change in the gene pool of a population.

The advantageous allele may increase in frequency within the population. For example, it may be that in the initial generation, 10% of the population carried the advantageous allele. Over several generations, it may be the allele frequency increases to 60%. This change in allele frequency results in a change in the gene pool.

6. Over time/Through successive generations, this results in evolutionary change.

Evolutionary change occurs because the genetic content of the population has changed.

7. It can result in speciation. The mechanisms by which natural selection can engender speciation are discussed in section (k).