The Least Likely Cause of Natural Selection


Natural selection is a fundamental process in evolution, where certain traits that aid in survival and reproduction become dominant in a population over time. However, it is equally vital to understand the factors that do not contribute to natural selection since it helps us to view the process more holistically. In this article, we will explore the least likely causes of natural selection and examine the limitations, myths, and implications surrounding it.

5 Factors that Do Not Contribute to Natural Selection

Several factors may influence the traits present in a population, but not all of them necessarily lead to natural selection:

A. Genetic Drift

Genetic drift occurs when a random event leads to a change in allele frequencies. It is common in small populations but not a result of natural selection. Genetic drift can either decrease or increase the frequency of an allele, regardless of its impact on survival or reproduction.

B. Mutation

Mutations are relatively random changes in the DNA sequence. They can increase variation, but not all mutations lead to survival or reproduction advantages or, more importantly, natural selection. In some cases, they may even cause harmful effects and reduce the chances of survival and reproduction.

C. Non-random Mating

Non-random mating occurs when organisms mate based on specific traits such as size, color, or behavior. While it may influence the traits present in a population, it is not a result of natural selection.

D. Gene Flow

Gene flow occurs when genes move from one population to another, leading to more similarity between the two populations. However, gene flow results from movement and mixing and is not due to natural selection itself.

E. Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as climate, availability of food, and seasonal changes can influence the presence of traits in a population, but it does not necessarily lead to natural selection of favorable traits. The environment cannot select for a particular trait, but only eliminates those that can’t cope with it.

Debunking Common Myths About Natural Selection

There are numerous myths surrounding the process of natural selection, including:

A. Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the fittest is perhaps one of the most well-known and misunderstood aspects of natural selection. The fittest organisms are not necessarily the strongest or most intelligent but are the individuals that have the most favorable traits for survival and reproduction in their environment.

B. Natural Selection is Random

While natural selection relies on random mutations as a source of variation, the actual process of natural selection is in no way random. It only selects for traits that are beneficial for survival and reproduction, making it a non-random process.

C. Natural Selection Leads to Perfection

Natural selection does not lead to perfection but only favors traits that are most suited for a particular environment. What is beneficial in one environment may be detrimental in another.

D. Evolution is Teleological

Evolution is not a guided process but an unguided process where organisms adapt to their environment through natural selection. There is no predetermined outcome or plan for evolution.

Why Some Traits are Not Affected by Natural Selection

While natural selection can drive the evolution of traits in a population, there are also traits that are not affected by this process such as:

A. Neutral Traits

Neutral traits have no effect on survival or reproduction, so natural selection does not act upon them. Examples of neutral traits could include a specific eye color or hair texture.

B. Traits Controlled by Multiple Genes

Some traits are controlled by multiple genes, which makes them more complicated to evolve and less likely to change through natural selection. Polygenic traits like human height or skin color are examples of traits controlled by multiple genes.

C. Traits with No Variability

If all individuals in a population have the same trait, then there is no variation for natural selection to act upon.

D. Stabilizing Selection

Stabilizing selection results in a reduction of variation in a population by selecting against extreme traits. This type of selection does not lead to the evolution of new traits but rather maintains the status quo.

Exploring the Limitations of Natural Selection

While natural selection is a fundamental process in evolution, certain limitations may prevent it from driving significant change. These include:

A. Limited by Historical Contingency

Historical contingency refers to unpredictable events that occur throughout history. They can lead to certain traits being more successful than others, leading to a pathway of evolution that may not be the most efficient or optimal.

B. Limited by Trade-Offs

Trade-offs occur when one trait is favored over another, leading to a decrease in the other trait, despite its fitness benefits. For example, a shortened beak may be better for cracking nuts, but it also makes it harder to catch insects.

C. Limited by Genetic Constraints

Genetic constraints can limit the evolution of certain traits by preventing specific combinations of genes from occurring. For example, if two genes are linked, evolution cannot act upon them independently.

D. Limited by Co-evolution

Co-evolution refers to the reciprocal evolutionary changes that occur between two species that interact. One species may evolve features that make it harder to be preyed upon, leading the predator to evolve features that allow it to overcome the prey’s defenses.

Uncovering the Factors that are Least Likely to be Shaped by Natural Selection

While several factors contribute to natural selection, certain traits are least likely to be shaped by it such as:

A. Correlated Traits

Correlated traits are traits that are genetically linked, making it hard for evolution to act upon them independently. In other words, natural selection cannot select for one trait without indirectly selecting for the other.

B. Sexual Selection

Sexual selection refers to the selection of traits based on sexual characteristics rather than survival characteristics. Since sexual selection is primarily driven by individual preference, it is less likely to be shaped by natural selection.

C. Random Events

Random events such as catastrophic events or mutations can create new traits or eliminate existing ones, but they are not shaped by natural selection as they aren’t a result of an adaptive advantage.

D. Traits Controlled by Epigenetic Factors

Epigenetic factors refer to changes in gene expression that do not involve changes to the genetic code. While these changes can be crucial for survival and reproduction, they are not heritable, making it harder for natural selection to act upon them.


Natural selection is a critical process in evolution, but it is equally essential to understand the factors that do not contribute to it, as well as its limitations and myths. By doing so, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of evolution and better appreciate the complexity of the natural world.

Through examining the least likely causes of natural selection, we have learned that not all traits are affected by it. Likewise, limitations such as historical contingency and genetic constraints provide a more holistic view of the process. Ultimately, understanding these concepts helps us to better comprehend the natural world, and our place in it.

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