genetic drift


Definition of genetic drift

: random changes in gene frequency especially in small populations when leading to preservation or extinction of particular genes

Examples of genetic drift in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Many of the conservation herds overseen directly by the Interior Department have 400 or fewer animals — leaving them prone to problems of inbreeding and genetic drift that reduce environmental adaptability. Washington Post, "Time ticks away at wild bison genetic diversity," 3 Nov. 2019 In a growing population, chance effects, known more formally in evolutionary theory as genetic drift, can become more powerful than natural selection. Quanta Magazine, "On the Microbial Frontier, Cooperation Thrives," 2 Aug. 2013 Just print the precise vaccine required at thousands of locations across the country, adjusting the design to account for genetic drift. Andrew Hessel, Ars Technica, "Printing vaccines at the pharmacy or at home will be the way of the future," 20 June 2019 The new study suggests the DNA disparity, not uncommon in small island populations, is a clear case of genetic drift: Chance determined which genes got passed to subsequent generations. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "State of Science: Ancient DNA Starts Answering Archaeology's Big Questions," 1 Jan. 2019 But genes can sometimes also become widespread just through random chance, a phenomenon called genetic drift. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Like genes, language evolution involves random chance," 3 Nov. 2017 Now, a team of researchers is using the analogy of evolution to explain language change, arguing that key factors in biological evolution—like natural selection and genetic drift—have parallels in how languages change over time. Michael Erard, Science | AAAS, "How the English language has evolved like a living creature," 1 Nov. 2017 If the reproductive material could be readily frozen and defrosted, those studies would be easier to conduct and replicate, since researchers wouldn’t have to work around spawning schedules or struggle against genetic drift. Jacob Brogan, Smithsonian, "A Cool New Way to Freeze and Unfreeze Zebrafish Embryos Using Gold Nanotechnology and Lasers," 13 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'genetic drift.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of genetic drift

1945, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of genetic drift was in 1945

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Cite this Entry

“Genetic drift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for genetic drift

genetic drift


Medical Definition of genetic drift

: random changes in gene frequency especially in small populations when leading to preservation or extinction of particular genes

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