Letter | Published:

So-called Non-adaptive or Neutral Characters in Evolution

Naturevolume 168page424 (1951) | Download Citation



THE reaction that set in some thirty years ago against the facile assumption that all interspecific differences are adaptive was good but went too far. Several authors insisted that most specific and sub-specific differences were non-adaptive. More recently, Mayr1, while emphasizing the great importance of selection in speciation, considered that not all geographical variation is adaptive and, in particular, that most of the characters involved in polymorphism are completely neutral so far as survival value is concerned. Later2, he reversed this judgment on polymorphism.

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  1. 1

    Mayr, E., “Systematics and the Origin of Species” (Columbia, 1942).

  2. 2

    Mayr, E., and Stresemann, E., Evolution, 4, 291 (1950).

  3. 3

    Carter, G. S., “Animal Evolution” (London, 1951).

  4. 4

    Mayr, E., and de Schauensee, R. M., Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, 91, 1 (1939).

  5. 5

    Dobzhansky, T., Genetics, 28, 162 (1943). Wright, S., and Dobzhansky, T., Genetics, 31, 125 (1946). Dobzhansky, T., and Levene, H., Genetics, 33, 537 (1948).

  6. 6

    Cain, A. J., and Sheppard, P. M., Heredity, 4, 275.

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  1. Department of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, University of Oxford

    • A. J. CAIN


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