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A maladaptation is an adaptation that is (or has become) less helpful than harmful. It is a term used when discussing both humans and animals in fields such as evolutionary biology, biology, psychology (where it applies to behaviors and other learned survival mechanisms) and other fields where adaptation and responsive change may occur. Like adaptation, it may be viewed as occurring over geological time, or within the lifetime of one individual or a group.
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It can also signify an adaptation that, whilst reasonable at the time, has become less and less suitable and more of a problem or hindrance in its own right, as time goes on. This is because it is possible for an adaptation to be poorly selected or become less appropriate or even become on balance more of a dysfunction than a positive adaptation, over time.
Note that the concept of maladaptation, as intially discussed in a late 19th century context, is based ion a flawed view of evolutionary theory. It was believed that an inherent tendency for an organism's adaptations to degenerate would translate into maladaptations soon become crippling if not "weeded out" (see also Eugenics). In reality, the advantages conferred by any one adaptation are rarely decisive for survival on its own but rather balanced against other synergistic and antagonistic adaptations, which consequently cannot change without affecting others.
In other words, it is usually impossible to gain an advantageous adaptation without incurring "maladaptations". Consider a seemingly trivial example: it is apparently extremely hard for an animal to evolve the ability to breathe well in air and in water. Better adapting to one means being less able to do the other.
Examples for maladaptations:
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Maladaptation". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|