Microevolution & Macroevolution: Similarities & Differences

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  • 0:02 What is Microevolution?
  • 1:14 Mechanisms
  • 2:10 What is Macroevolution?
  • 3:09 Patterns
  • 4:42 Similarities & Differences
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jayne Yenko

Jayne has taught health/nutrition and education at the college level and has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson, we will learn about microevolution, the small scale, and macroevolution, the big scale. We'll learn how they are similar to each other and how they are different. We will also explore the mechanisms of evolution.

What is Microevolution?

Microevolution is defined as changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next. A population is a group of organisms who interbreed with each other. They share a gene pool. Because this is on a small scale, we have micro-evolution. We are zooming in on just one branch of the tree of life.

Let's use beetles as another example. You go to a small mountain meadow where the bouncing baby beetle can be found and take samples. Your sample of these beetles shows that 80% of the genes in the population are for green coloration and 20% are for pink coloration.

Next year, you return to the same place and take another sample. This time, you find a new ratio: 60% green genes to 40% pink. This is a microevolutionary pattern, a change in gene frequency. This change means that the population has evolved, or changed.

Mechanisms

There are a number of factors that cause these types of changes to occur. We'll stay with our beetle population to illustrate these mechanisms.

  • Migration or Gene Flow - Some blue bouncing baby beetles immigrated from another population from another meadow on a different mountain.
  • Mutation - The green genes randomly changed to pink genes.
  • Genetic Drift - By chance, more pink genes showed up in the offspring than green.
  • Selection (natural and artificial) - Fewer pink beetles were eaten by predators than green beetles, so they survived to reproduce, which is natural selection. Or someone decided they like pink beetles better than green ones and is selecting pink beetles to breed, which is artificial selection.

What is Macroevolution?

Macroevolution is evolution on a big scale, the descent of many species from one common ancestor over billions of years. Two ideas central to evolution is that life has a history, and that there is a common ancestor for all species. We can't always see what is happening at this level because it is happening so slowly, but we can look to geology, fossils, and living organisms to determine what has occurred over time.

The same mechanisms that we see in microevolution work at the macroevolution level. These can show major evolutionary change over time. All life forms have been accumulating mutations through these mechanisms for billions of years. We can even graph how these changes have occurred over time. Let's find out how.

Patterns

The patterns of evolution help explain what has happened with the gene pool of different creatures over time.

  • Stasis - Some populations don't change much for long periods of time.
  • Character change - Changes can happen slowly or quickly in any direction.
  • Speciation - Populations may break away many times from the main group through the mechanisms of evolution, or they may stay relatively the same over long periods of time. This results from:

1. Geographic isolation - the same species occurs in different areas, separated by a physical barrier, such as a mountain range

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