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Not correct[edit]

"Organisms face a succession of environmental challenges as they grow and develop and are equipped with an adaptive plasticity as the phenotype of traits develop in response to the imposed conditions. The developmental norm of reaction for any given trait is essential to the correction of adaptation as it affords a kind of biological insurance or resilience to varying environments."

This is fundamentally incorrect and should be removed. Organisms are not equipped with a magic button—selection may favor the evolution of plasticity, but there are strict requirements that have been modeled extensively (see Via and Lande, etc), and evaluated empirically. The same goes for the following statement on developmental reaction norms, which is unintelligible—there is no one developmental reaction norm. What trait is being discussed? What does 'biological insurance' mean? It is true that developmental biologists may discuss these topics in this manner, but evolutionary biologists would almost all disagree. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:44, 31 March 2015 (UTC)

Poor title[edit]

Should be qualified as evolutionary adaptation. Does it cover temporary adaptaion viz endocrine fluctuations?Wblakesx (talk) 18:53, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

Vandalism removed[edit]

I came to this page and saw some idoitic vandislier put "your gay" at the top. I removed it. (Rhinomantis88 (talk) 12:25, 14 January 2013 (UTC))

Good edit! Lova Falk talk 09:18, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

A Mistake[edit]

There's a very obvious mistake in the last few lines of the explanation: Transcription is certainly not a one-way process. It's translation that is considered to be one-way only.

Adaptation and evolutionary process[edit]

Is an evolutionary process in the opening paragraph a pattern or a design?

Comment re:Christianity[edit]

In speaking with a devout believer in Christianity, I discovered that adaptation has a very negative connotation when used in context to discuss the particulars of physical traits of an organism. This, of course, stemmed from the notion that adaptation involves evolution. I feel that the definitional use of evolution in describing what an adaptation refers to needs to be restated. I feel this way because of behavioral changes animals undergo that enables the individual to cope to new situations/environments. A man may have an adaptation to a cold climate come about by putting on clothes. This is a very short term behavioral change that will probably convey expected long-term reproductive success of the species. Additionally, if species are placed in certain environmental situations, it is not uncommon for the individual to survive but not be able to reproduce. This can be seen in a broad array of plants that have been transplanted to adorn our ornamental gardens around the world. Can it not be said that these plants have all the necessary adaptations to grow, even thrive, when subjected to new environmental conditions in spite of never being reproductively successful? I just feel adaptation, as a definition, could be viewed from an individual perspective as well as a species-level perspective.Hipeople

I feel the definition should be restated along the lines of something like this:

A biological adaptation is an anatomical structure, physiological process or behavioral trait of an organism that allows it cope with its environment in such a way that a healthy individual does not die when exposed to that environment; an adaptation may give rise to the expected long-term reproductive success of the individual and, according to the majority of the scientific data currently available, evolve within the species of the individual over a period of time by the process of natural selection

Basically it's just the same definition, but giving a little ground to creationists. On Wikipedia we treat evolution as fact, as do biologists, so I don't see any need for this. Richard001 07:04, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

The page contradicts itself: "Adaptation can be viewed as taking place over geological time, or within the lifetime of one individual or a group." "Adaptation occurs over many generations; it is generally a slow process caused by natural selection."

Short term acclimative mechanisms are the result of long term selection. Richard001 07:04, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Actually a lot of the above is a misinterpretation of what an adaptation is. I've given a referenced definition, and will try to clear this up. Basically something that is adaptive (like wearing clothes) is not necessarily an adaptation, because an adaptation is by definition something that has evolved by natural selection. Similarly, adaptations are not always adaptive, for example vestigial structures. Richard001 09:56, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
Nevertheless, the process of "adaptation" may indeed refer to change "within the lifetime of one individual or a group"; the word can refer to a process as well as a feature obtained through the process. And I don't see any reason why a tan cannot be referred to as an adaptation to the environment, just as a feature produced through natural selection is. This is a linguistic confusion, which I hope my addition clarifies. I suggest that acclimatization is still dealt with in its own article, but it is acknowledged the word "adaptation" may include short-term, non-evolutionary processes, as it does in the quoted dictionary definition. -- (talk) 10:32, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

adaptation and natural selection[edit]

beware of the usage of "long-term reproductive success" - evolution s short-sighted, and cannot anticipate success. Any adaptation can merely be in response to differences in reproductive success among indidividuals of the currently living population. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Blueil77 (talkcontribs) 22:52, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

would such success be pattern or a design? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:44, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

Added content moved here[edit]

This description is pretty well-done, but it needs verifiable sources and it needs to be placed in the body of the article rather than after the categories and interlanguage links at the bottom. I just want to say "good effort" to the IP user that wrote it. Joie de Vivre 19:39, 21 May 2007 (UTC)


Some examples of Adaptation are The armadillo lizard has a prey adaptation. It has a hard spiky outer body. This is a physical adaptation. Also when it feels that it is in danger it will grab its tail in its mouth and curl up, only exposing its hard and spiky outer body. This protects its soft under belly. This is a behavioral adaptation.

The desert kangaroo rat has predator adaptations. It has big eyes so it can see in the dark. The reason the eyes are big is so they can let in more light to see in the dark. This is a physical adaptation. Also the desert kangaroo rat is nocturnal, hunts during the night. Hunting at night in the desert is cooler than hunting in the hot desert sun. This is a behavioral adaptation.

The javelina has prey and predator adaptations. It has a great sense of smell. The javelina uses its sense of smell to smell for plants and other sources of food. This is a predator and physical adaptation. The javelina also looks for food in groups. This is so if a predator comes they can fight back together. There is safety in numbers. This is a behavioral and prey adaptation.

Category (and template?)[edit]

I think a category concerning adaptation, function and perfection/teleology/design in biology would be good. Category:Evolutionary biology gets enough thrown into it as it is, so this could help break it down a little in one area. Articles to be included that I can think of would be function (biology), adaptation, adaptive value, Darwinian puzzle, adaptationism, spandrel, preadaptation, exaptation, bauplan, Lamarkism, orthogenesis, teleological argument, argument from poor design. I would go ahead and create it myself, but what on earth should it be called? Category:Adaptation, function and perfection? I can't think of anything brief that ties it all together. Richard001 09:15, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

Changed Template[edit]

I replaced the "does not cite any sources" with "needs more sources". As there are sources cited, just not enough. nut-meg 15:41, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

Last sentence of Adaptation vs. acclimation[edit]

I think someone has deleted something? It says "It is important that i am cool" I don't really understand how to use this completely, so I'm just pointing it out so someone who actually knows what they're doing can come a long and fix it because I don't want to make it worse. (talk) 05:54, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

Acclimatisation being called "adaptation"[edit]

This article is a little unclear at the moment. It concentrates solely on adaptation as a result of natural selection, which of course is important, but I think should also have a section on adaptation over time of an individual, also called acclimatisation or (more in the USA I think) acclimation. For example at the end of

  • Adaptation: the process of successful interaction of a population with its environment (according to Relethford); many different definitions...
  • can refer to a trait that that has been favored by natural selection
  • but it also can refer to changes in an individual organism in response to environmental stress
o such as tanning when exposed to sun
o or the concentration of hemoglobin in your blood increasing if you live for a few weeks at high elevation
o these are typically temporary, reversible changes
+ very short-term responses, like shivering, are called acclimation
+ longer-term, but still temporary, responses, like tanning, are called acclimatization
o but responses that occur during growth (infancy through adolescence) often result in permanent changes
+ and are called developmental acclimatization
  • nevertheless, the ability to make these temporary adaptations must be at least partially heritable
o the ability to tan varies, and that ability is heritable.

Also, in the context of natural selection, it is said that being adaptive is insufficient for being an adaptation - there is an example of it adaptations that are no longer adaptive, but not of something that is adaptive but not an adaptation.

Possibly all this was covered in an earlier version, and there needs to be some kind of rollback -- (talk) 09:48, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Vandalism had indeed deleted a section. I've added it back with a note about the usage of "adaptation" to mean acclimatization - using the Oxford Dictionary of Science definition, this usage would be valid, and it was current when I was at Uni in the 1980s. -- (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 10:24, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

new intro[edit]

The new intro points up the main angles, and provides, I hope, a good foundation for the article. It stresses the tracking aspect of the organism and its habitat. Macdonald-ross (talk) 21:09, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Macdonald-ross for improving the article. Here are some minor issues I noticed on a first read-through that might warrant further attention:
  • A wikitext comment says the article is written in American English, but there is quite a bit of colour/color inconsistency. Before jumping in and "fixing" it, I thought I'd check for opinions.
  • In "General principles", we read "There may be rare exceptions, but as a general rule it is a sound principle". Probably should reword.
  • In "Changes in habitat", the text "which affects the life of a species" is perhaps too informal (does a species have a life?).
  • In "Conflict between adaptations", the description about the Irish elk could be clarified because you would need to know a fair bit about the story to understand the current wording.
  • The article needs to explain whether a peacock's tale is an adaptation (sexual selection).
I hope to return to consider some of these. Johnuniq (talk) 01:44, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree with most of your comments. On spelling, it is difficult for me to conform to US spelling when I'm putting stuff in, I'm just not consistent enough. I'd better stick to English spelling, and let other discussants decide whether or not to change.
Peacock's tail, definitely. Environment in Changes in habitat should read 'habitat', since that has a more precise meaning. And some other rewording: as a matter of practice, I do go over all new text a few days later, but it does help to have your suggestions. There are still some topics to come. Macdonald-ross (talk) 06:02, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
As you say, the spelling can be sorted out later. Let's wait a few days until you've had a chance to implement your plans, but my point about the peacock was that the current lead seems to exclude the peacock's tale as being an adaptation (the lead talks about survival). Johnuniq (talk) 08:30, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
You are perhaps raising the question as to whether sexual selection raises the survival capacity of the population or species? If the answer were to be no, then the tail train would not be an adaptation? That's a big question, with a 150-year history! The general view (Fisher) has been that if the selection by females does in fact choose the fittest males then the system would have survival value. There is a bit of circularity here, though it may have been tested in a few cases. There have been many evolutionists who thought there was ultimately no difference between natural and sexual selection (Wallace interpreted cases of supposed sexual selection as cases of identification signals which served to reduce or prevent hybrids). In practice, peafowl are a pretty successful species, with a big natural range in India, so there are grounds for supposing the overall outcome of their mating system is quite viable... Macdonald-ross (talk) 10:10, 1 March 2009 (UTC)


Macdonald-ross has done a great rewrite of the article. I'm going to make some suggestions, and may do some minor editing, but I want to acknowledge that this area is an interest to me (not a profession), and I will not be at all concerned if my ideas are reverted. I have previously tried devising some text to help with the article, but it is surprisingly difficult.

I suggest that the beginning of the article (and perhaps some sections) should be slightly modified to suit a more general reader (say a bright 12-year old student). Consider the General principles section. The word "adaptation" is a noun, and I don't think this section makes it very clear just what it is about a parasite that is an adaptation (of course it's obvious, but the article has to spell it out). The section jumps too quickly towards discussing the distinction between a process and a product, without spending sufficient time on exactly what is meant by adaptation is a process and also adaptation is a product. The mention of vestigial organs should occur later, after settling the issue of exactly what adaptation is (with examples). It might be worth mentioning things which are not adaptations. The issue of whether an ornamental tail is an adaptation needs to be specifically addressed. Johnuniq (talk) 04:03, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

The Genetic change section may cause a reader to assume that a habitat change leads to habitat tracking or genetic change (not both), as if some cosmic force decides what is in the best long-term interests of the species. Once again, I don't know quite know how to fix this, but probably need a sentence to the effect that genetic changes will always randomly occur; it's only if they happen to be sufficient for a response to a habitat change that something useful for the future species will result. If the organism is able to move, and if alternative competition-free habitat is available, presumably habitat tracking would almost always be an easier option for changes to habitat on the thousand-year time scale.

The comment about "cryptic physiological activity" needs reworking; perhaps something about how genetic changes may result in visible structures that we would call adaptations, or may adjust physiological activity in a way that suits the changed habitat.

The points under Shifts in function may benefit from more work. The pre-adaptation paragraph raises questions. Probably need to add some words to the first sentence to indicate that it's just a matter of luck, and "ideally suited" is probably an exaggeration. The first sentence says that the conditions have not yet arisen, but the second sentence says a certain rice-grass is better suited than its parent species to their own habitat.

The Preadaptation article exists, but it is currently weak and may not be suitable for a "Main article" link (note that it and exaptation both claim fossil/bird feathers). Need to decide if "preadaptation" is hyphenated. Johnuniq (talk) 10:30, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

The preadaptation article is entirely wrongly based, and must be rewritten. (sigh...) Macdonald-ross (talk) 18:23, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
Overall, I've found this a most helpful critique, so thank you for your review. I have responded to most of the comments with changes, often along the lines you suggest. Macdonald-ross (talk) 18:37, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

Lamarck's ideas[edit]

Lamarck's ideas do not "fail" per se - in fact they work very well in a context such as technological or cultural evolution which does not depend on heredity - it's just that they don't work in biological evolution. Have therefore softened the language accordingly ElectricRay (talk) 04:46, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

This article is about adaptation as an aspect of evolution, not about anything else. In fact, the whole set of articles connected to this are about biological evolution. Other uses of the word may be debated elsewhere. Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:28, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Well, I'm not going to get into a pissing match about it, but my edit made precisely the distinction you draw. Lamarckian ideas do not "fail"; they just don't apply to biological adaptation. Which is exaclty what I wrote. But - you know, whatever. ElectricRay (talk) 23:56, 29 May 2009 (UTC)


I think the recent change to the lead by Stevertigo is a little too large to occur without discussion, so I have undone the changes pending comments here. The established and proposed leads are:

Established lead Proposal
Adaptation is one of the basic phenomena of biology.[1] It is the process whereby an organism becomes better suited to its habitat.[2] Also, the term adaptation may refer to a characteristic which is especially important for an organism's survival.[3] For example, the adaptation of horses' teeth to the grinding of grass, or their ability to run fast and escape predators. Such adaptations are produced in a variable population by the better suited forms reproducing more successfully, that is, by natural selection. In biology, adaptation is an observed effect of the process of evolution —wherein canonical organisms (species) appear to change over time to survive more efficiently within their habitat. The concept of adaptation was developed before the theory of evolutionLamarck had made some groundbreaking observations which in turn inspired Darwin's insights into the underlying processes. "Adaptation" in reality does not refer to changes within individual organisms, but to the canonical form of the species — changes brought about by a processes of natural selection and punctuated equilibrium (a recent insight into how environmental change influences evolution). Thus, "Adaptation" in the context of biology, is largely a colloquialism for "natural selection" and "punctuated equilibrium."[4][5][6]
  1. Williams, George C. 1966. Adaptation and natural selection: a critique of some current evolutionary thought. Princeton. "Evolutionary adaptation is a phenomenon of pervasive importance in biology." p5
  2. The Oxford Dictionary of Science defines adaptation as "Any change in the structure or functioning of an organism that makes it better suited to its environment".
  3. Both uses of the term 'adaptation' are recognized by King R.C. Stansfield W.D. and Mulligan P. 2006. A dictionary of genetics. Oxford, 7th ed.
  4. Williams, George C. 1966. Adaptation and natural selection: a critique of some current evolutionary thought. Princeton. "Evolutionary adaptation is a phenomenon of pervasive importance in biology." p5
  5. The Oxford Dictionary of Science defines adaptation as "Any change in the structure or functioning of an organism that makes it better suited to its environment".
  6. Both uses of the term 'adaptation' are recognized by King R.C. Stansfield W.D. and Mulligan P. 2006. A dictionary of genetics. Oxford, 7th ed.

The proposed opening line is better than the old "one of the basic phenomena of biology" because the lead should quickly say what adaptation is, although I'm not sure that "obverved" is needed. Some issues with the proposed text are: usage of "canonical" is obscure and not in article (the lead should inform); discussion of Lamarck/Darwin is unhelpful in the lead (it's incidental history); I don't think the lead needs "recent insight", and possibly the lead (as a summary) should not introduce the two dictionary definitions. Johnuniq (talk) 03:02, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

I may say more later. First of all, the proposal, badly written, incorporates both POV and red herrings in extraordinary confusion. For a start, punctuated equilibrium is not a recent idea and, what is more, has nothing at all to do with the definition of adaptation. Adaptation does indeed refer to individual organisms, and also to populations, and higher taonomic groups, according to context. "Canonical species" -- whatever they are (O.R.?) -- are no part of modern biology, but seem to be a throwback to pre-Darwinian types. The contributions of Darwin and Lamark are dealt with later in the article, and have no business in the intro: neither invented the concept. I notice the proposal uses the same references. Anyone who looks at the references can see that the previous version is a fair reflection of the sources. The proposal absolutely is not. Lastly, adaptation is a product of natural selection, not a colloquialism, and punctuated equilibrium is an inference drawn from sequences of fossil taxa (and the article already contains several apposite references to passages in works by Niles Eldredge). The proposal should be rejected, for its lack of real basis in modern biology, and its obviously personal point of view. The original is supported (and not just the intro) by a wealth of references, most of which give page refs for checking. If we are not about reliable references, what are we about? Macdonald-ross (talk) 10:40, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
Macdonald. Assuming the term "individual organism" means discrete instantiations of a species form, can you please explain how an individual organism "adapts" or else 'undergoes "adaptation?" -Stevertigo (wlog | talk | edits) 06:35, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
Johnuniq, I greatly appreciate your direct and uncolored approach toward discussing my changes here. With regard to your point about the use of the term "canonical," I agree its non-standard and I did consider changing it. Naturally the point is that there is an issue of terminology that "organism" that refers not so much to a species form, but to a discrete entity. "Species form" may work better.
I will also give deference on the inclusion of Lamarck and Darwin, though I would prefer that the lede deal a bit with the etymology of the term, and how it came to be used in the context of biology. -Stevertigo (wlog | talk | edits) 06:41, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
I have previously mentioned to Macdonald-ross my view that the lead needs tweaking to better say what adaptation actually is, although the current lead is pretty reasonable in that respect, and good overall. I imagine that as a person becomes more expert, they are less satisfied with a simplistic definition that I might prefer. At any rate, apart from a small desire to make the first sentence more to the point, I am happy with the current lead and see no reason to prefer the proposal. Johnuniq (talk) 07:32, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
I have revised the intro to make the first sentence more definitive. On the other hand, history of the term is given space in section 2 as 'Brief history'. Brief, because this is not primarily a history of science page, and because the article is plenty long enough as it is. Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:21, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
Very nice change. Johnuniq (talk) 08:57, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
While I'm sure the change you made was nice, I'm still not clear about why you two reverted my edit rewite. John, is there a reason for why your preference for "a simplistic definition" should be a dominant factor here? MacDonald-ross, once again, could you please answer my question above, and tell us how it is that a discrete organism undergoes "adaptation?" Thanks. -Stevertigo (w | t | e) 22:38, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
After my first post above, Macdonald-ross has fixed the only issue that I had with the current lead, and I now see no reason to change it. Also, I am confident that there is no point debating changes involving unsourced concepts. An "organism" refers to a particular individual, see my second comment below. Johnuniq (talk) 00:54, 10 October 2009 (UTC)


The first sentence of the lead might be recast to clarify that an individual organism does not adapt in the sense of this article (despite the second sentence which makes that obvious). Perhaps Adaptation is the process whereby organisms in a population become better suited to their habitat. I do not have a problem when reading the current first sentence because I understand what point is being made, however some clarification may be worthwhile. Johnuniq (talk) 00:54, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Quite a subtle point. I think it's a population that gets adapted; individuals, varying as they do, would be more or less likely to survive and reproduce. The use of 'organism', common as it is, does smack of typological thinking. However, there can be no similar objection to organisms in a population, since what is a population but a collection of interbreeding organisms? Anyway, I think the present formulation of the first sentence could not reasonably be misunderstood. Macdonald-ross (talk) 22:50, 10 October 2009 (UTC)
How would the new lead sound to a young student? By mentioning only "population", it looks like the article supports group selection. My above suggestion has the advantage that the plural "organisms" implies that we are not talking about one individual, yet carries the suggestion that selection is acting on the organism (or the genes via the organism, according to taste). While in some "big picture" sense, the population gets adapted, the population is just part of the environment in which selection acts on the individual. On reflection, your emphasis on process may be why you like the sentence, whereas I'm thinking along the an adaptation is a feature line. By the way, it occurs to me that "heritable" should be mentioned nearer the top of the article. Johnuniq (talk) 00:26, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

The terminology is not too precise, so I appreciate you two working on it a bit. "Population" is an improvement, but the latter usage of "organism" is inaccurate. In both cases, the term "species" probably works best: "Adaptation is the process whereby a species (or a sub-population thereof) becomes better suited to its habitat."

Sentences like these "also, the term adaptation may refer to a feature which is especially important for an organism's survival" indicate that the terminology of "adaptation" are not quite scientific (something that should clarified also). And in the end the word "adaptation" is simply a semantic unit for a conceptualization of reactive and successful change within the composition and function of biological life forms.

I may be in fact be confusing things by writing on a level different than most of these sources, but my point rests on the fact that, within any article about inexact conceptualizations, the semantics and etymology for any terminology are fundamental to its definition, and should be entirely primary within the article. A "word" is an encapsulation of a concept or conceptualization. This word "adaptation" has historically been applied to not just bio-physiological change over time, but to behavioural changes over time - both those changes intrinsic to the behaviour of the species and likewise to the behaviour of individuals. All of which just substantiates the fact that the term "adaptation" is an inexact encapsulation that deals largely in non-scientific semantics.

So keep in mind that an article about "species/population change" that does not have "evolution" in its lede presents us with a serious problem. Even if "adaptation" had nothing to do with "evolution" (via a process of "natural selection)" we would still have to employ the latter concepts anyway, just to clarify the usual ambiguities that arise from those normal associations. Regards -Stevertigo (w | t | e) 07:48, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

First: our job is to represent the subject as indicated in (mostly) reliable published secondary sources by reputable authors. This has been done, and the five references in the short intro cannot be discounted. The intro should not be substantially changed.
Second: The primacy of the process definition is made absolutely clear in the references to Mayr (ref 7), and Dobzhansky (refs 16, 17, 18 especially 17, which gives three specific locations in the book).
Third: As an evolutionary term, adaptation has been used in professional biology by almost everyone who has occupied a university post in a biological science. If someone doesn't like it, that's just too bad.
Fourth: The term 'species' would not be so appropriate for the introductory sentence. Adaptations usually have their origin in parts of a species which have little or no genetic exchange. Geographical separation is the most frequent reason for this. The differences within the human species is quite a good example. At the other end of the scale, successful adaptations can become part of a huge range of species. A classic example is the cleidoic egg, without which vertebrates could not have become fully terrestrial. The term 'organism' is certainly possible, since its ambiguity has the advantage of not being specific as to taxonomic level. But I think the present wording reflects better the content of refs 7 & 17. Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:28, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
I used the term "canonical organism" before to distinguish from "organism form" ("species") and from "discrete organism" ("individual"). The former may not work as well as "species," but "discrete organism" seems to work well for.. discrete organisms. In any case, making it clear that even if "everyone who has occupied a university post in a biological sense" abuses the terminology, the term nevertheless has semantic variance and ambiguity from which occasionally arises some basic misconceptions. We are under no obligation to be so ambiguous - linguists have relevance and authority here (as do copy editors) with regard to terminology issues and how we resolve them. That the 'process definition' has primacy is good - that other definitions exist needs also to be mentioned.
Macdonald-ross wrote: "Adaptations usually have their origin in parts of a species which have little or no genetic exchange. Geographical separation is the most frequent reason for this. The differences within the human species is quite a good example." Are these "differences" substantial enough to mention? If these "differences" extend - given the normal ambiguity within the "adaptation" term - from objective variations like epicanthic folds and melanin production to rather subjective differences like race and intelligence, etc., then don't we need to be more clear about these ambiguities? Not to make too much of an issue of it, but at least distinguishing physiological change from behavioural change seems necessary given the abject ambiguity - even if only the historical kind - in "adaptation." -Stevertigo (w | t | e) 21:56, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Adaptation vs. Evolution[edit]

Some people tend to separate adaptation from evolution (usually for religious reasons). If adaptation is a subset of evolution I think it should be made a bit clearer on this page.--Coching (talk) 01:22, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Global warming adaptation[edit]

"adaptation to climate change, if necessary, is orders of magnitude more cost-effective than attempts at mitigation", comes from this source. [1]. Would folks mind a sentence or section in this article about global warming adaptation theories? Zulu Papa 5 ☆ (talk) 02:57, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

This is an article about adaptation in biological evolution; it is not an article about every conceivable use of the word adaptation. The pre-intro clearly says:
"This article is about the evolutionary process. For other uses, see Adaptation (disambiguation)"

Macdonald-ross (talk) 06:59, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

Adaptedness vs Fitness[edit]

I checked the reference to Sober (1984), but couldn't find where he made the comment about adaptedness pertaining to history and fitness to future. He does, however, state explicitly that he uses the terms interchangeably (174n4). Did I just miss it, or is this comment entirely false? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:21, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

It's my fault for not giving the page number. The discussion is about adaptation vs fitness or adaptedness. He raises it in several places, particularly p210, as follows:
"Adaptation and fitness (adaptedness) are complementary concepts. The former looks to the past, reflecting the kind of history that a trait has had. The latter looks to the future, indicating the chances that organisms have for survival and reproductive success".
Later he comments:
"These distinctions would be easier to grasp if adaptation, adaptedness and adapting did not sound like different terms for the same thing".
Obviously, I'll add the page number. I don't think it is generally agreed that fitness and adaptedness are the same thing, incidentally (see Dobzhansky definition above). Macdonald-ross (talk) 16:44, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
I see Endler agrees with my last comment, for he says (Natural selection in the wild, p43)
"The distinction between fitness and adaptedness is a useful one because the one does not necessarily imply or give rise to the other; a phenotype with high adaptedness may not have high fitness, and vice versa". Macdonald-ross (talk) 17:00, 7 June 2011 (UTC)

Lead is in error[edit]

The lead has a very peculiar definition of adaptation and it is not consistent with the definitions given in the citations provided. One of the most highly cited journal articles on this topic is Gould and Vrba's (1982) paper - Exaptation a missing term in the science of form.[2] That paper has been cited more than any other paper on the history of this topic - and continues to be cited for the historical functional perspective on an adaptation. They define adaptation as:

  • "Any feature that promotes fitness and was build by selection for its current role."

Sober defines adaptation thus:

  • "A trait T is now an adaptation for doing X in a lineage if and only if T evolved in the lineage because there was selection for T, and there was selection for T because having T promoted doing X (Sober, 1984, p. 208)."[3]

The classical book on adaptation (George Williams) [4] defines adaptation in a way that is consistent with Sober's definition offered above.

  • Coddington (1988): "An apomorphic function promoted by natural evolutionary definition of adaptation must have an historical component specifying selection as the evolutionary agent responsible for the eppearance of the feature."
  • Baum and Larson (1991): A' is an adaptation for task T in clade C if and only if 1) A' is currently maintained by natural selection in C because of its superior performance α' at task T relative to the ancestral condition A and its performance α, and (2) A' originally became prevelent in C because of selection for its superior performance α' at task T."

(See: [5], for a review and access to the literature quoted).

This article has a very peculiar definition: "Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat." - This is the weirdest definition of adaptation I have ever come across and it is wrong. This may apply to a group selectionist argument, but even then it falls far short of anything that appears in the literature. Two citations are given for that definition - neither offers that kind of definition. No textbook on evolution offers this kind of definition either, so it needs to go.

I propose an immediate fix that is consistent with the literature, will insert it right way, and others can debate its specifics. "An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection."Thompsma (talk) 15:46, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

I moved the citations down into the text until this gets repaired. The entire lead was completely of base and needed to go. The body of text is also filled with mistakes. This will take a while to fix.Thompsma (talk) 15:49, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

redirect adaption to adaptation[edit]

What is the WP policy on what is to be used in text? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:07, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

Vestigial organs[edit]

In terms of adaptation, the term vestigial is rather broad. This section could have a more distinct in adding comments and information on anatomical vestigially, if room allows. Bennett.829 (talk) 14:35, 1 October 2014 (UTC)bennett.829


I think that there could be some pictures of popular adaptations added such as a giraffe neck or an elephant neck. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Hanna.225 (talkcontribs) 18:17, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

adaptive evolution[edit]

Adaptive evolution and adaptation seem to mean the same thing (1st box in [1]) , but it isn't mentioned on the page. Additionally, in the article :

is the term adaptive evolution mentioned and linked to:

this redirects to adaptation.

-- (talk) 12:45, 11 May 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ DETTMAN, JEREMY R.; RODRIGUE, NICOLAS; MELNYK, ANITA H.; WONG, ALEX; BAILEY, SUSAN F.; KASSEN, REES (May 2012). "Evolutionary insight from whole-genome sequencing of experimentally evolved microbes". Molecular Ecology. 21 (9): 2058–2077. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05484.x.

Famous Joke[edit]

Perhaps the entire Philosophical issues section could be removed? Anything and everything could and does possibly or possibly not have philosophical issues.

Perhaps one of the most important philosphical issues is whether or not a particular joke is funny or not, because if a joke is not actually funny, then is it actually a joke?

Is this joke really really funny? Should it be moved completely to the teleology topic? Should we continue to cringe at its assumptions?

Should Wikipedia continue to encourage the poor taste of specific dead scientists, who now have no possible chance of defending themselves against any possible suggestions of taselessness?

It is of note that the particular witticism is neither on the pages of Hull or Haldane anywhere mentioned. However it is on the teleology page.

It might also be of note that there is some interesting dichotomous looking material and strange sort of wording in the section generally, eg:

"that a feature evolved by natural selection for a specific reason – and potentially of supernatural intervention – that   features and organisms exist because of a deity's conscious intentions"

For something to to have evolved for a specific reason, somebody would have to know what that reason was, and if a person did know what that reason was then they would have to be God, however it would seem that since a mere mortal cannot comprehend the infinite majesty of any sort of supreme deity, for such a mortal to make an assertion that there are specific reasons that features exist, might possibly seem a little presumptious.

In regards to the specific wording, perhaps it might be useful to differentiate the word 'reason' with 'perception' which then might lead to a hypothesis, which could be developed into a Theory, which might look something like the clearest peer reviewed explanation, whith the most currently useful predictive ability, with the most generally availible evidence.

Perhaps talking about teleology at all in the article on adaptation might be best left with "some people argue about the relationship between teleology and science" if the Philisophical Issues of the joke are found to be somehow resolved. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:32, 3 July 2017 (UTC)

Lead definition[edit]

The text states:

The following definitions are given by the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky:

   1. Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby an organism becomes better able to live in its habitat or habitats

We have a secondary source definition given by an eminent expert in a quality evolutionary biology text. However, the lead states:

Firstly it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits a population of organisms to their environment.

So how did we get from an organism to a population of organisms? Where is the citation for that? William Harris • (talk) • 00:09, 1 December 2017 (UTC)

Removed. Whatever the merits, it does sound like group selection. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:47, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
Many thanks, that is much closer to the original definition provided. William Harris • (talk) • 10:09, 1 December 2017 (UTC)