- Origins of Life
Remembering E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy
We celebrate today the lives of two great ecologists: E.O. Wilson, who passed away on December 26 at the age of 92, and Tom Lovejoy, who passed away onDecember 25 at the age of 80. Each made extraordinary contributions to the field of bio-diversity and to the greater public dialog about humans and nature...
Tom and Ed, Pioneering Conservation Biology
Thomas Lovejoy and Edward O. Wilson
The two scientists first met in the mid-nineteen-seventies. At that point, Wilson was in his mid-forties, and teaching biology at Harvard. Lovejoy, a dozen years younger, was working for the World Wildlife Fund. Over lunch, they got to talking about where the W.W.F. should focus its efforts. They agreed that it should be in the tropics, because the tropics are where most species actually live. There wasn’t a good term for what they were trying to preserve, so they tossed one around—“biological diversity”—and put it into circulation. “People just started using it,” Lovejoy recalled, in an interview in 2015. (Later, the phrase would be shortened to “biodiversity.”)
All life on Earth—including humanity—shares a last universal common ancestor (LUCA), which lived approximately 3.5–3.8 billion years ago. The fossil record includes a progression from early biogenic graphite to microbial mat fossils to fossilised multicellular organisms. Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped by repeated formations of new species (speciation), changes within species (anagenesis), and loss of species (extinction) throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Morphological and biochemical traits are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, and these traits can be used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees.
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