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Misconceptions about natural selection and adaptation
by the Understanding Evolution team

Natural selection is a powerful process: it produces amazing adaptations (such as the "leaf-disguise" of the katydid shown below) and helps us understand much of what we observe in the natural worldóbut natural selection is often misunderstood. Frequently, the process is misconstrued as one that simply grants a species any trait that it might need for survival. However, as we will see, natural selection has its limitations, and many characteristics of organisms can be better understood with a more realistic view of the process.

A katydid's
leaf-like appearance is an adaptation that helps protect it from predation
A katydid's leaf-like appearance is an adaptation that helps protect it from predation.


In this article, we will explore these key questions:
  • What are some common misconceptions about the process of natural selection?

  • Why are those views of the process inaccurate?

  • Why might natural selection not have removed all deleterious alleles from a population?

  • What aspect of natural selection is non-random and how does this affect the direction of evolution?

  • What sort of traits are adaptations, and what sorts of traits are not?

  • What is the "neutral theory?"




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Selection, not perfection


Katydid image © Greg Neise, GE Neise Digital Communication.

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