THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ATAVISM (from Lat. atavus, a great-great-great-grandfather or ancestor), the term given in biology to the reproduction in a living person or animal of the characteristics of an ancestor more remote than its parents (see Heredity). Loosely used, it connotes a reversion to an earlier type. Individuals reproduce unexpectedly the traits of earlier ancestors, and ethnologists and criminologists frequently explain by “atavism” the occurrence of degenerate species of man; but the whole subject is complicated by other possible explanations of such phenomena, included in the scientific study of normal “variation.”
Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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