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disruptive selectiondisruptive Selektion (ger.)

  • Selection that changes the frequency of alleles in a divergent manner, leading to the fixation of alternative alleles in members of the population. The result after several generations of selection should be two divergent phenotypic extremes within the population; this process has been thought to provide a possible mechanism for sympatric speciation. (Oxford Dict. of Zoology 2009)  

    the action of selection may be classified into three basic types. It may favour one extreme phenotype at the expense of all others, as is commonly the case with artificial selection in domesticated plants and animals (directional selection). It may favour the average expression at the expense of both extremes (stabilizing selection). Or, finally, it may favour both extremes simultaneously, though not necessarily to the same extent, at the expense of the average (disruptive selection).

    Mather, K. (1953). The genetical structure of populations. Symp. Soc. Exper. Biol. 7, 66-95: 73.


    An extreme form of disruptive selection is the direct antithesis of stabilizing selection and occurs when both extreme values are chosen as parents in each generation and the intermediate phenotypes are rejected.

    Thoday, J.M. (1958). Effects of disruptive selection: the experimental production of a polymorphic population. Nature 181, 1124-1125: 1124. 


    By disruptive selection is meant selection which favours those members of a population which, in respect of some measurable characteristic, are well above or below the population mean, at the expense of the more typical members of the population.

    Maynard Smith, J. (1962). Disruptive selection, polymorphism, and sympatric speciation. Nature 195, 60-62: 60. 


    disruptive selection Selection for phenotypic extremes in a polymorphic population, which preserves and accentuates discontinuity; centrifugal selection; diversifying selection; cf. directional selection, stabilizing selection.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 70.