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Odyssey of Life, Part I—The Ultimate Journey

Program Overview


NOVA explores the links between our individual development and the evolution of life itself.

The program:

  • shows how an egg is fertilized and begins to develop, tracing the development of an embryo from three weeks, when it is only 1/16 inch long, to 19 weeks, when all its features are clearly defined.

  • compares the beginning stages of development among vertebrates, revealing them to be very similar.

  • reviews the primary mechanism of evolution—natural selection—a process in which genetic changes, or mutations, sometimes lead to new features in individuals. This, in turn, could provide an inheritable advantage in the form of improved ability to survive and reproduce.

  • explores the process of how life might have developed, from the first self-replicating molecules to complex animals.

  • examines how particular features—such as gills, tails and arms—may have evolved.

  • outlines the similarity between humans and chimpanzees and gorillas, which share 98 percent of the same genes.

Teacher's Guide
Odyssey of Life, Part I—The Ultimate Journey
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