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adaptation




  1. A peculiarity of structure, physiology, or behavior, which promotes the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce in a given environment.

  2. The development of such characteristics by a species over time.

In the second of these senses, adaptation is the process of modification of the form or functions of part of an organism, to fit it for its environment and so to achieve efficiency in life and reproduction. Adaptation of individual organisms is called acclimatization, and is temporary since it involves acquired characteristics; the permanent adaptation of species is arises from transmitted genetic variations preserved by natural selection (see also evolution). Successful and versatile adaptation in an organism usually leads to widespread distribution and long-term survival. Examples include the development of lungs in amphibians, and of wings in birds and insects.

In the most general sense, adaptation is a feedback process in which external changes in an environment are mirrored by compensatory internal changes in an adaptive system. The actions of the adaptive unit can affect the environment, which, in turn, feeds information back to the adaptive system. Adaptation is evident in the evolution of both natural and artificial life systems, genetic algorithms, and social systems.


Related category

   • ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF LIFE