Personalities promote adaptability

Bold great tits lay their eggs earlier when under threat, the shy ones put it off. Such personality differences help maintain the biological variation essential for the survival of populations, as LMU biologists have now ...

Study finds natural selection favors cheaters

Mutualisms, which are interactions between members of different species that benefit both parties, are found everywhere—from exchanges between pollinators and the plants they pollinate, to symbiotic interactions between ...

Uncoupling the link between snake venom and prey

What was fast-becoming received wisdom among herpetologists, namely that snake venom composition normally reflects the variety of their prey, has been disproved in one common species of North American rattlesnake.

Dingoes should remain a distinct species in Australia

Since the arrival of British settlers over 230 years ago, most Australians have assumed dingoes are a breed of wild dog. But 20 leading researchers have confirmed in a new study that the dingo is actually a unique, Australian ...

How new species arise in the sea

For a new species to evolve, two things are essential: a characteristic—such as a colour—unique to one species and a mating preference for this characteristic. For example, individuals from a blue fish species prefer ...

Long-lived parents produce better quality offspring

Genetic manipulation that more than doubles lifespan also leads to better offspring—according to new collaborative research from the University of East Anglia and Uppsala University.

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Natural selection

Natural selection is the process by which heritable traits that make it more likely for an organism to survive and successfully reproduce become more common in a population over successive generations. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

The natural genetic variation within a population of organisms means that some individuals will survive and reproduce more successfully than others in their current environment. For example, the peppered moth exists in both light and dark colors in the United Kingdom, but during the industrial revolution many of the trees on which the moths rested became blackened by soot, giving the dark-colored moths an advantage in hiding from predators. This gave dark-colored moths a better chance of surviving to produce dark-colored offspring, and in just a few generations the majority of the moths were dark. Factors which affect reproductive success are also important, an issue which Charles Darwin developed in his ideas on sexual selection.

Natural selection acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, but the genetic (heritable) basis of any phenotype which gives a reproductive advantage will increase in frequency over the following generations (see allele frequency). Over time, this process can result in adaptations that specialize organisms for particular ecological niches and may eventually result in the emergence of new species. In other words, natural selection is an important process (though not the only process) by which evolution takes place within a population of organisms.

Natural selection is one of the cornerstones of modern biology. The term was introduced by Darwin in his groundbreaking 1859 book On the Origin of Species, in which natural selection was described by analogy to artificial selection, a process by which animals with traits considered desirable by human breeders are systematically favored for reproduction. The concept of natural selection was originally developed in the absence of a valid theory of heredity; at the time of Darwin's writing, nothing was known of modern genetics. The union of traditional Darwinian evolution with subsequent discoveries in classical and molecular genetics is termed the modern evolutionary synthesis. Natural selection remains the primary explanation for adaptive evolution.

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