What is Natural selection: Definition and 43 Discussions

Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the heritable traits characteristic of a population over generations. Charles Darwin popularised the term "natural selection", contrasting it with artificial selection, which in his view is intentional, whereas natural selection is not.
Variation exists within all populations of organisms. This occurs partly because random mutations arise in the genome of an individual organism, and their offspring can inherit such mutations. Throughout the lives of the individuals, their genomes interact with their environments to cause variations in traits. The environment of a genome includes the molecular biology in the cell, other cells, other individuals, populations, species, as well as the abiotic environment. Because individuals with certain variants of the trait tend to survive and reproduce more than individuals with other less successful variants, the population evolves. Other factors affecting reproductive success include sexual selection (now often included in natural selection) and fecundity selection.
Natural selection acts on the phenotype, the characteristics of the organism which actually interact with the environment, but the genetic
(heritable) basis of any phenotype that gives that phenotype a reproductive advantage may become more common in a population. Over time, this process can result in populations that specialise for particular ecological niches (microevolution) and may eventually result in speciation (the emergence of new species, macroevolution). In other words, natural selection is a key process in the evolution of a population.
Natural selection is a cornerstone of modern biology. The concept, published by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in a joint presentation of papers in 1858, was elaborated in Darwin's influential 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. He described natural selection as analogous to artificial selection, a process by which animals and plants with traits considered desirable by human breeders are systematically favoured for reproduction. The concept of natural selection originally developed in the absence of a valid theory of heredity; at the time of Darwin's writing, science had yet to develop modern theories of genetics. The union of traditional Darwinian evolution with subsequent discoveries in classical genetics formed the modern synthesis of the mid-20th century. The addition of molecular genetics has led to evolutionary developmental biology, which explains evolution at the molecular level. While genotypes can slowly change by random genetic drift, natural selection remains the primary explanation for adaptive evolution.

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  1. mark!

    Is epigenetics an additional mechanism for natural selection?

    Mammals go through two rounds of epigenetic "reprogramming" -- once after fertilization and again during the formation of gametes (sex cells) -- in which most of the chemical tags are https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/03/end_the_hype_over_epigenetics__lamarckian_evolution.html. The...
  2. DaveC426913

    Natural Selection Simulator like Conways' Game of Life

    I'm considering making a Natural Selection Simulator (possibly in Java). I've always been fascinated with the idea that so many traits can evolve independently of each other in the same population (even little things like tufted ears and loss of tail, etc.) and I want to see it in action. Like...
  3. jim mcnamara

    Change in perspective for Natural Selection

    https://phys.org/news/2020-01-fossil-upend-basic-tenet-evolutionary.html Sandra Catania et al. Evolutionary Persistence of DNA Methylation for Millions of Years after Ancient Loss of a De Novo Methyltransferase, Cell (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.12.012 Using pathogenic fungus species, the...
  4. P

    Why was natural selection considered revolutionary?

    It's a truism that those that are better at surviving/adapting will be better at surviving. How is that in any way enlightening or new? Is there a deeper, more complex aspect to this theory that somehow escaped me? Were there people before this theory believing that those that are worse at...
  5. E

    Has natural selection stopped affecting humans?

    In the past, natural selection selected those who are the fittest to live to pass their genes, and eliminated those who are not, but now most people pass their genes, even those who don't have the best genes to live, although now not having the best genes may affect the qualify of a person's...
  6. G

    Natural selection, evolution "why are we still sick"

    Now first of all biology is not my strong subject but I am interested in it nevertheless, if my questions come off as arrogant or ignorant then pardon and please explain as I am curious.Last night before going to sleep I suddenly stumbled upon a question, the question goes somewhat like this...
  7. H

    Medical Why does natural selection favor convoluted vaginas?

    While it's true that it prevents successful penetration by unwanted males, but any unsuccessful fertilization by any males, unwanted or otherwise, results in fewer offsprings. This means lower genetic fitness for convoluted vaginas. EDIT: Not in humans. But in other species in nature such as ducks.
  8. Cal ben

    How is speciation possible within known confines?

    Please someone help me understand the concept of the actual occurrence of speciation. Cataclysmic Evolution may account for some species but not many, it could only practically apply to asexual species and would undermine genetic diversity. Actually I can save a lot of explanation by clarifying...
  9. Thomas McGuigan

    Any thoughts on natural selection?

    I have been in a heated discussion with my acquaintance about natural selection. Anyone who thinks natural selection is a real thing any links would be helpful
  10. S

    Nausea from vertigo: an evolutionary by-product?

    Why do humans (and other mammals) get nauseated from dizziness or vertigo? I can see the evolutionary advantage of nausea from food poisoning, but I can't see the direct "link" between vertigo and vomit. I found something on verywell.com...
  11. Sentosa

    How can natural selection be true if disease is inherited?

    I just finishedOn the Origin of Species. It seems Darwin is saying that characteristics that make it less likely for an organism to survive will drop out over time. But other scientists tell me that cancer has a genetic link, that suicide has a genetic predisposition, etc. Many diseases have...
  12. Sace Ver

    How did natural selection impact the size and foot structure of horses?

    Explain how natural selection might have caused the changes in each of the following: -Size of horses -Foot structure of horses I'm quite sure as to why the size of horses needed, and I'm not quite sure why the structure of the foot needed to change.
  13. L

    Evolutionary theorist here

    I am an evolutionary theoretician, focusing on the dynamics of process that shape the generation of variation in organisms, including properties such as mutational robustness, the evolution of evolvability, and modularity in the genotype-phenotype map. My main mathematical area is development...
  14. gracy

    Natural selection and speciation

    How natural selection leads to speciation?Speciation is a process of making a new species ,right? Natural selection just select one organism from a bunch of organisms of the same species to survive ,so how does it leads to creation of a new species?For example in an area covered with snow ,white...
  15. G

    Natural Selection, why not even better?

    I'l start by saying that I'm not a creationist or something like that, I fully support evolutionism and the scientific approach. However, while natural selection can powerfully explain the traits of all current species, it can be hard to understand why if this is the mechanism driving...
  16. Manraj singh

    A few questions on natural selection

    I know very little about natural selection, so: Why didn't all the creatures evolve? I mean , why is it that some fishes came to the land, or why did not all monkeys turn into humans? And is it possible that someday the monkeys on the trees turn into humans?
  17. bcrowell

    Did cosmological natural selection get a reprieve?

    The March 2014 issue of Physics Today has an article by Lee Smolin in which he argues that natural laws must change over time. As examples of such theories, he gives Penrose's CCC and his own cosmological natural selection (CNS): http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0612185 My understanding was that...
  18. N

    A question about Natural Selection

    Hi, I just want some explications about the nature of "Natural Selection" in term of physical laws acting on molecules. In other words, how exactly "Natural Selection" acts on molecules and atoms.
  19. J

    Is *All* of evolution propelled by natural selection?

    I've always thought that evolution was this mysterious property of the universe and that natural selection was almost a separate theory. Now that I look more into it, i can almost always rationalize an answer as to why a property of life is the way it is by natural selection. For example, i...
  20. R

    Natural Selection and inanimate matter

    Was the evolutionary principle of natural selection at work on the Earth before animate matter(life) emerged? Inanimate chemicals replicated before R/DNA and the first living cell. Did natural selection apply to these chemical molecules? If the answer is yes, is it just a hypothesis or has...
  21. M

    Natural selection: What do they mean by average individual?

    Natural selection: What do they mean by "average" individual? You know how they say stabilizing selection favors the "average" individual - i.e, it is centered around the mean? I have a question. How do they calculate this "mean"? I'm confused. All I know is that if pure-white rats mate...
  22. E

    Natural Selection and David Lack's starling studies

    Homework Statement Describe Lack's experiments with Swiss starlings, and state what these experiments tell us about the effect of natural selection Homework Equations Lack's studies / experiment was that he marked the nestlings of the starlings and then he recaptured them months later...
  23. L

    Natural selection and parallel evolution

    I am just learning about the theory of Evolution and wonder how parallel evolution of unrelated species during the same period of time is explained.
  24. S

    Natural selection, nature kills the weakest

    As I understand evolution, with natural selection, nature kills the weakest, for an example predators killing the slowest in a herd of Antilopes. What I don't understand is how life could have evolved into something as complex as us in only 2.5 billion years. I've heard of epigenetics, but that...
  25. H

    Smolin's Cosmological Natural Selection: How does it help the problem?

    Alright, admittedly I'm a noob at LQG, but I have a basic question. The cosmological natural selection, as I understand it, is that universes are born from singularities (or something close) inside of black holes and 'bounce', inflate, and become universes like our own. But what spawned this...
  26. marcus

    Does this rule out cosmic natural selection? (1.97 solar neutron star)

    A letter in the current issue of Nature: ==quote== A two-solar-mass neutron star measured using Shapiro delay P. B. Demorest1, T. Pennucci2, S. M. Ransom1, M. S. E. Roberts3 & J. W. T. Hessels4,5 National Radio Astronomy Observatory, 520 Edgemont Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22093, USA...
  27. Loren Booda

    Natural selection of information

    Does natural selection apply more to information in general than just to genetics?
  28. bcrowell

    Post-2004 work on cosmological natural selection?

    I'm going to do a little popular-level talk for undergraduates (not necessarily science majors) on baby universes, cosmological natural selection, and Penrose's cyclical universe. The most recent substantive paper I have on CNS is this: Smolin, "Cosmological natural selection as the explanation...
  29. G

    Natural selection needs the feeling?

    Natural selection needs the feeling?? Human(at least) has their feelings, such as anger, happiness, and depression, etc. But, is there an advantage for the survival of human being?? why natural selection choose the human being who has feelings?? I thought about this theme at last night...
  30. marcus

    Universe or Multiverse? (new w/cosmic natural selection chapter)

    This is a new book from Cambridge University Press, scheduled to go on sale 30 June 2007, available now for pre-order https://www.amazon.com/dp/0521848415/?tag=pfamazon01-20 The Cambridge.org webpage for the book is here http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521848411...
  31. marcus

    The Status of Cosmological Natural Selection (Smolin rebuts Vilenkin)

    The status of cosmological natural selection Lee Smolin 25 pages "The problem of making predictions from theories that have landscapes of possible low energy parameters is reviewed. Conditions for such a theory to yield falsifiable predictions for doable experiments are given. It is shown...
  32. Robert100

    Cosmic Natural Selection: Where to start?

    Can anyone offer a suggested article or website to understand Lee Smolin's idea of Cosmic Natural Selection (CNS)? Which of his books (if any) fully describes this concept? (Perhaps "The Life of the Cosmos") Since Smolin first came up with this idea, has he refined it in regards to the...
  33. P

    Is natural selection driven by intelligence?

    First of all I want to make clear that this topic isn't about ID. On wikipedia I read this definition of NS: Not too long ago I saw this story about intelligent bacteria: Further down the article u can read how bacteria behave and 'help' each other out in different situations, some...
  34. marcus

    Elsevier handbook re: Cosmic Natural Selection

    Elsevier is a major science publisher and they do, among other things, handbooks. An Elsevier handbook is scheduled to come out this year (2006) on Philosophy of Physics. Probably some good stuff about foundations of physics and what the success of quantum mechanics and general relativity tell...
  35. J

    Does natural selection apply extra-galactically?

    Does "natural selection" apply extra-galactically? Would the rules of natural selection (in this Universe, but possibly in a different galaxy) still apply? In that regard, how might they differ? Basically what I'm driving at is, if we were to encounter life outside Earth who popped in...
  36. J

    Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection: A Scientific Revolution

    I know zip about biology, but I know a little physics. Before Einstein's general theory of relativity challenged it, the prevailing scientific theory of gravitation was Newton's theory. In the minds of most physicists, the issue was resolved in favor of Einstein's theory as a result of an...
  37. Pengwuino

    Evolution = years of natural selection?

    Someone posted in another forum that "Evolution is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection." Is that true?
  38. marcus

    What is the Cosmological Natural Selection theory?

    Cosmological Natural Selection is a testable idea for explaining why the constants in physics and cosmology----the parameters of the standard models used in the two fields----have the numerical values they do. I expect it's important enough so that it deserves a more transparent thread...
  39. ZapperZ

    Natural selection acts on the quantum world

    Quick! Read this before it goes into Nature's archive and no longer becomes free. http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041220/full/041220-12.html Zz.
  40. wasteofo2

    Has natural selection destroyed your sympathy for the death of animals?

    I remember I used to be sad when I saw an animal die, especially if it were something like a domesticated cat catching a chipmunk and not even eating it. I was always aware of natrual selection, but it was never at the forefront of my mind when thinking about this, I always thought that it was...
  41. Nachtwolf

    Sherman Hawk, The Book of Millennium: A Treatise on Natural Selection and Artificial Selection

    Sherman Hawk, The Book of Millennium If it be the truth that human beings, as biological organisms, are subject to the natural laws which govern other creatures, then surely it is also true that human beings, as a species, hate themselves. The one thing which has made us great, we undermine...
  42. C

    Natural selection or Societal selection?

    This is just a curiosity that I am confused about; is natural selection within human society still considered natural selection? I am confused in that people are no longer focusing on natural features so much as artificially "enhanced" features. Is an artificial enhancement resulting in...
  43. Iacchus32

    A Flaw in the Theory of Natural Selection?

    The following began on the thread How would you engineer the perfect human?, which I decided to continue on here. I thought it was unusual that everyone was talking about genetically altering human beings, and wondering what if anything it had to do with natural selection? For this would almost...