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Artificial selection

Review your understanding of artificial selection in this free article aligned to NGSS standards.

Key points

  • Humans use artificial selection to develop organisms with useful or desirable traits. All crop plant varieties, types of livestock, and dog breeds are the result of artificial selection.
  • Another term for artificial selection is selective breeding.
  • During artificial selection, humans choose parent organisms with specific traits and allow them to reproduce. This is repeated over many generations. Eventually, this process gives rise to new types of organisms.
  • The types of organisms that result from artificial selection are considered domesticated.
  • Artificial selection is similar to natural selection. During both processes, traits (and their underlying genes) change in a group of organisms. And, this change is based on which organisms are more likely to reproduce.
  • There is one key difference between artificial selection and natural selection. During artificial selection, humans choose which individuals will reproduce. This is not the case during natural selection.
A drawing of a wild mustard plant is shown in the middle of a diagram. Arrows point from the wild mustard’s flower buds and stem to broccoli. An arrow points from the wild mustard’s flower buds to cauliflower. An arrow points from the wild mustard’s terminal leaf bud to cabbage. An arrow points from the wild mustard’s leaves to kale.
Artificial selection of wild mustard plants gave rise to many of the vegetables we eat today. Image credit: "Wild mustard plant selective breeding" by Liwnoc, CC BY-SA 4.0.

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