polymorphism


polymorphism

Discontinuous genetic variation that results in the occurrence of several different forms or types of individuals among the members of a single species. The most obvious example of polymorphism is the separation of most higher organisms into male and female sexes. Another example is the different blood types in humans. A polymorphism that persists over many generations is usually maintained because no one form has an overall advantage or disadvantage over the others in terms of natural selection. Some polymorphisms have no visible manifestations. The castes that occur in social insects are a special form of polymorphism that results from differences in nutrition rather than from genetic variation.

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