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Charles Darwin was a scientist that lived from 1809-1882.
During his life he created the most widely accepted explanation for evolution or why animals have changed over time and why traits are passed on.  When Darwin was a young man he went on a long trip on a boat named "The Beagle" to the Galapagos Islands where he watched many of the animals and plants.  Like any good scientist, Darwin began to ask questions.  He wondered what made certain animals survive while others died.  He also wondered how different species of animals have similar traits.  Eventually, all this questioning led Darwin to create his theory of Natural Selection.

What is Natural Selection?
According to Darwin, in any population, including human, there are certain characteristics that are passed down.  Some characteristics, like the ability to out-run a predator, or to hide in tall grass, help members of a population to survive.  It would be important for a deer to run very fast if a bear was chasing it.  Those deer that don't run as fast as the others are easier targets for the bear.  So the deer that run fast survive, while those that don't run as fast become the bear's dinner.
According to Darwin's principle deer that run fast will have a greater chance for survival and when they survive, they can pass those fast genes onto their children.  That's how traits are passed on to another generation÷strong traits survive, weak traits don't.

What was his Proof?
Darwin saw evidence of this in his study of the animals on the island.  He was most interested in the finches that he found on Galapagos.  The finches were almost 500 miles away from the mainland of South America.  Although the finches that Darwin found on Galapagos were very far away from the finches in South America, they still had many of the same traits which lead Darwin to believe that they were the same species.  What Darwin found interesting was that the finches on Galapagos had different characteristics than those on the mainland.  The finches of Galapagos had developed different bills for feeding on the plants that were found on the island.  The two finches were obviously related, but they were definitely not the same.  This lead Darwin to conclude that the finches on Galapagos had evolved to have the bills because having the different bills made it easier for them to find food.  Those finches that had the bills that were different from the bills of the finches on the mainland were more likely to survive because they could find more food.  Because they survived, they passed their new bills onto their children.  Just like the deer that survived because they ran faster than the bears, the finches with the new bills found more food and were able to survive.

How does Natural Selection explain family resemblance?
Natural Selection had a few holes.  How could strong traits get passed on if only one parent had the strong trait and one had the weak trait?  A scientist by the name of Gregor Mendel took Darwin's ideas and made them work to explain trait inheritance.

 Click here to find out about Mendel

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