Definition and Principles of Artificial Selection


Artificial selection, also known as selective breeding, is a process in which humans intentionally manipulate the genetic traits of plants or animals to produce desired characteristics. It is a powerful tool that has been used for centuries to enhance certain traits in domesticated species, such as crop plants and livestock. In this article, we will explore the definition and principles of artificial selection, highlighting its importance and applications in various fields.

Definition of Artificial Selection

Artificial selection can be defined as the deliberate breeding of organisms with desirable traits by humans, leading to the accumulation of those traits in successive generations. It involves selecting individuals with specific characteristics and allowing them to reproduce, thereby passing on those desired traits to their offspring. Over time, this process can result in significant changes in the genetic makeup of a population.

Principles of Artificial Selection

1. Variation

The first principle of artificial selection is the recognition of natural variation within a population. Variation refers to the differences in traits or characteristics that exist among individuals of a species. In order to selectively breed for specific traits, there must be a range of variation present within the population. This variation can arise through genetic mutations, gene flow, or recombination during sexual reproduction.

2. Selective Breeding

Selective breeding involves choosing individuals with desirable traits and allowing them to reproduce, while excluding those with less desirable traits from the breeding process. This selection is based on the specific traits that are desired, such as increased yield in crops or improved meat quality in livestock. By selectively breeding individuals with the desired traits, the frequency of those traits in the population can be increased over time.

3. Heritability

The principle of heritability is crucial in artificial selection. It refers to the ability of traits to be passed on from one generation to the next. For artificial selection to be effective, the traits of interest must have a genetic basis and be heritable. This means that the traits must be influenced by genes and can be transmitted from parents to offspring. By selecting individuals with the desired traits and allowing them to reproduce, these traits can be passed on to future generations.

4. Repetition and Time

Artificial selection is a time-consuming process that requires repetition over multiple generations. It takes time for the desired traits to become more prevalent in the population. Each generation of selective breeding builds upon the progress made in the previous generation. The process may involve multiple rounds of selection and breeding, gradually refining and intensifying the desired traits.

5. Directional Selection

Directional selection is a key principle in artificial selection. It involves consistently selecting individuals with a specific trait in order to shift the population towards that trait. For example, if a breeder wants to increase the size of a crop plant’s fruit, they would consistently select and breed plants with larger fruits. Over time, this directional selection will result in a population with larger fruits.

Applications of Artificial Selection

Artificial selection has numerous applications in various fields, including agriculture, animal breeding, and horticulture. In agriculture, it is used to develop crop varieties with increased yield, disease resistance, or improved nutritional content. In animal breeding, it is employed to enhance traits such as milk production, meat quality, or specific physical characteristics. In horticulture, it is used to create new flower varieties with unique colors, shapes, or fragrances.


Artificial selection is a powerful tool that allows humans to selectively breed organisms with desired traits. By harnessing natural variation and applying the principles of selective breeding, individuals with specific characteristics can be chosen for reproduction, leading to the accumulation of those traits in successive generations. This process has been instrumental in shaping domesticated species and has numerous applications in various fields.


Q1: What is the difference between natural selection and artificial selection?
A1: Natural selection is the process by which nature selects individuals with traits that are advantageous for survival and reproduction. Artificial selection, on the other hand, is the deliberate breeding of organisms by humans to produce desired traits.

Q2: Can artificial selection be applied to humans?
A2: While artificial selection has been extensively used in domesticated plants and animals, its application to humans raises ethical concerns and is generally considered unethical.

Q3: Howmany generations does it take to see significant changes through artificial selection?
A3: The number of generations required to see significant changes through artificial selection can vary depending on the species and the specific traits being selected for. In some cases, noticeable changes can be observed within a few generations, while in others, it may take several generations or even centuries.

Q4: Are there any risks or drawbacks associated with artificial selection?
A4: Artificial selection can lead to unintended consequences, such as reduced genetic diversity within a population. This can make the population more susceptible to diseases or environmental changes. Additionally, excessive selection for certain traits can result in negative side effects, such as decreased fertility or increased susceptibility to certain health issues.

Q5: Can artificial selection be used to reverse the effects of natural selection?
A5: While artificial selection can modify the genetic makeup of a population, it cannot reverse the effects of natural selection. Natural selection acts on the traits that provide a selective advantage in a given environment, while artificial selection is driven by human preferences and goals.


  • – [Natural selection](
  • – [Ethical considerations in artificial selection](
  • – [Genetic diversity](
  • – [Negative effects of artificial selection](
  • – [Reversibility of natural selection](

Keywords: artificial selection, selective breeding, genetic traits, variation, selective breeding, heritability, repetition, time, directional selection, applications.


  • – [Selective breeding](
  • – [Genetic variation](
  • – [Heritability](
  • – [Directional selection](
  • – [Applications of artificial selection](
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