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Not to be confused with relic.
For the Relict Moth, see Catocala relicta.

A relict is a surviving remnant of a natural phenomenon.

  • In biology a relict (or relic) is an organism that at an earlier time was abundant in a large area but now occurs at only one or a few small areas.
  • In ecology, an ecosystem which originally ranged over a large expanse, but is now narrowly confined, may be termed a relict.
  • In geology, the term relict refers to structures or minerals from a parent rock that did not undergo metamorphosis when the surrounding rock did, or to rock that survived a destructive geologic process.
  • In agronomy, a relict crop is a crop which was previously grown extensively, but is now only used in one limited region, or a small number of isolated regions.
  • In history (as revealed in DNA testing), a relict population refers to an ancient people in an area who have been largely supplanted by a later group of migrants and their descendants.
  • In real estate law, reliction is the gradual recession of water from its usual high-water mark so that the newly uncovered land becomes the property of the adjoining riparian property owner.[citation needed]

Other uses:

  • In addition, relict was an ancient term still used in colonial (British) America and England of that era, now archaic, for a widow. It came to be a generic or collective term for widows and widowers.
  • In historical linguistics, a relict is a word that is a survivor of a form or forms that are otherwise archaic.


See Relict (biology)


Some geologic processes are destructive or transformative of structures or minerals, and when a process is not complete or does not completely destroy certain features, the left-over feature is a relict of what was there before. For example, relict permafrost is an area of ancient permafrost which remains despite a change in climate which would prohibit new permafrost from forming.[1] Or it could be a fragment of ancient soil or sediment found in a younger stratum. A relict sediment is an area of ancient sediment which remains unburied despite changes in the surrounding environment. In pedology, the study of soil formation and classification, ancient soil found in the geologic record is called a paleosol, material formed in the distant past on what was then the surface. A relict paleosol is still found on the surface, and yet is known to have been formed under conditions radically different from the present climate and topography.[2]

In mineralogy, a relict mineral is a surviving mineral from a parent rock that underwent a destructive or transformative process. For example, serpentinite is a kind of rock formed in a process called serpentinization, in which a host mineral produces a pseudomorph, and the original mineral is eventually replaced and/or destroyed, but is still present until the process is complete.[3]

Within geomorphology a relict landform is a landform that that took form from geomorphic processes that are not active at present. In a Scandinavian context this is often meant to imply that relict landforms have formed before the last glaciation and survived it under cold-based parts of the ice sheet.[4]


Human populations[edit]

In various places around the world, minority ethnic groups represent lineages of ancient human migrations in places now occupied by more populous ethnic groups, whose ancestors arrived later. For example, the first human groups to inhabit the Caribbean islands were hunter-gatherer tribes from South and Central America. Genetic testing of natives of Cuba show that, in late pre-Columbian times, the island was home to agriculturalists of Taino ethnicity. In addition, a relict population of the original hunter-gatherers remained in western Cuba as the Ciboney people.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jackson, Julia A. (1980). Glossary of Geology. Falls Church, Virginia: American Geological Institute. p. 529. ISBN 0-913312-15-0. 
  2. ^ Retallack, Gregory J. (2008). "Paleosol". AccessScience. McGraw-Hill Companies. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Wicks, Frederick J. (2008). "Serpentinite". AccessScience. McGraw-Hill Companies. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Karin (2009). "Terminology of long-term geomorphology: a Scandinavian perspective". Progress in Physical Geography 33 (2): 163–182. 
  5. ^ Lalueza-Fox, C.; Gilbert, M.T.P.; Martinez-Fuentes, A.J.; Calafell, F.; Bertranpetit, J. (June 2003). "Mitochondrial DNA from pre-Columbian Ciboneys from Cuba and the prehistoric colonization of the Caribbean". American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Wiley-Liss) 121 (2): 97(12). doi:10.1002/ajpa.10236. Retrieved 12 March 2011.