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Darwin Day 2015 to Explore Plant Domestication and Evolution

How do plants evolve through domestication?  

The genetic basis for their evolutionary changes will be featured at Duquesne University's 2015 Darwin Day lecture on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Power Center Ballroom.  

Speaker Dr. John Doebley, professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will present Darwin, Wallace and Domestication. Doebley's research has examined the genetic similarities and differences between domesticated maize (corn) and its closest wild relative, teosinte (tall grasses), and has cloned the genes that caused the differences between the two plants.  

During his presentation, Doebley will review what has been learned about the basis for the change in the plants' forms under domestication and whether any patterns are beginning to emerge.

The scientific debate behind the talk dates to evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, who used plant and animal domestication as a basis for his theory on natural selection. Darwin believed that the pressures placed on planted crops to evolve are the same as those placed on wild plants by birds and other seed-dispersing animals.  

Conversely, Alfred Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, did not believe in using artificial selection as a model for natural selection.  

"Regardless of the differences of opinion between Darwin and Wallace, artificial selection is a powerful model to help people understand how natural selection acts to cause plant and animal adaptation," said Dr. David Lampe, associate professor of biology and Darwin Day coordinator. "That is as true today as it was in Darwin's time."

Darwin Day is an annual celebration of Darwin's life and work. International events are held to highlight the importance of science education in today's modern world and the wide-reaching impact of evolutionary biology.

The lecture, which is sponsored on campus by the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

For more information about Darwin Day 2015, visit the website, www.duq.edu/Darwin, or email darwin2015@duq.edu

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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