in some documented cases, even a single generation), evolution produces relatively small-scale microevolutionary changes in organisms. For example, many disease-causing bacteria have been evolving increased resistance to antibiotics. When a bacterium undergoes a genetic change that increases its ability to resist the effects of an antibiotic, that bacterium can survive and produce more copies of itself while nonresistant bacteria are being killed. Bacteria that cause tuberculosis, meningitis, staph infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and other illnesses have all become serious problems as they have developed resistance to an increasing number of antibiotics.

[Microevolution: Changes in the traits of a group of organisms that do not result in a new species.]

Another example of microevolutionary change comes from an experiment on the guppies that live in the Aripo River on the island of Trinidad. Guppies that live in the river are eaten by a larger species of fish that eats both juveniles and adults, while guppies that live in the small streams feeding into the river are eaten by a smaller fish that preys primarily on small juveniles. The guppies in the river mature faster, are smaller, and give birth to more and smaller offspring than the guppies in the streams do because guppies with these traits are better able to avoid their predator in the river than are larger guppies. When guppies were taken from the river and introduced into a stream without a preexisting population of guppies, they evolved traits like those of the stream guppies within about 20 generations.

Studies of guppies in Trinidad have demonstrated basic evolutionary mechanisms.

Incremental evolutionary changes can, over what are usually very long periods of time, give rise to new types of organisms, including new species. The formation of a new species generally occurs when one subgroup within a species mates for an extended period largely within the subgroup. For example, a subgroup may become geographically separated from the rest of the species, or a subgroup may come to use resources in a way that sets them apart from other members of the same species. As members of the subgroup mate among themselves, they accumulate genetic differences compared with the rest of the species. If this reproductive isolation continues for an extended period,

How long could it take to produce 1,000 generations?

How many generations might occur in a million years?


1 Generation

1,000 Generations

Generations per 1 million years


1 hour to 1 day

1,000 hours (42 days) to 2.7 years

8.7 billion to 370.4 million

Pets: dog/cat

2 years

2,000 years



22 years

22,000 years


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