Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Mutation

Any discontinuous change in the genetic constitution of an organism. Mutations can occur in DNA (see point mutation) or in chromosome structure. Mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation. Mutations must occur in germ cells before evolutionary change can occur, but somatic mutations can cause, for example, cancer and teratomas. Several classes of mutation have been defined, including synonymous mutation, silent mutation, neutral mutation, missense mutation, and nonsense mutation; each of the above may in addition be either a transition or a transversion.

See also micromutation, macromutation, and major chromosome anomaly.

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