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Mutation vs. Variation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 28, 2023
A mutation is a change in an organism's DNA sequence, while a variation refers to the differences between individuals within a population due to genetic and environmental factors.

Key Differences

At its core, a mutation pertains to a change in the DNA sequence of an organism. Such changes can arise from various factors, including exposure to radiation or chemicals. Conversely, variation is the result of the combined effects of multiple genes and environmental factors. This explains why siblings, excluding identical twins, exhibit differences despite sharing the same parents.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023
Mutation can be both beneficial and detrimental. A beneficial mutation might confer an evolutionary advantage, helping the organism to survive and reproduce. However, a harmful mutation could lead to diseases or disorders. Variation, meanwhile, is a natural and essential part of evolution. It ensures that populations have the genetic diversity required to adapt to changing environments.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023
The source of a mutation is primarily the DNA. Mutations can occur in genes (resulting in altered protein function) or non-coding regions of DNA. Variation, on the other hand, originates from the combined genetic makeup of two parent organisms and is further influenced by environmental factors throughout an individual's life.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023
Mutations are often spontaneous and unpredictable. They can happen at any point in an organism's life and can be passed on to offspring if they occur in reproductive cells. Variation, in contrast, is predictable to an extent. While two individuals will differ, they'll also share similarities with their parents and siblings, rooted in shared genetics.
Sara Rehman
Oct 27, 2023
Finally, while mutation is a fundamental source of genetic variation, not all variations stem from mutations. Some variations arise due to genetic recombination during sexual reproduction, where genes shuffle between the two parent organisms. Thus, while all mutations contribute to variation, not all variations are the result of mutations.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Nature

Change in DNA sequence
Differences within a population
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Cause

External agents, errors in DNA replication
Combination of genetics and environmental factors
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Outcome

Can be neutral, beneficial, or harmful
Leads to diversity
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Predictability

Often spontaneous and unpredictable
Somewhat predictable based on parent genetics
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023

Relation to Evolution

Source of genetic diversity but doesn't guarantee evolution
Essential for evolution as it provides a pool of traits to select from
Janet White
Oct 27, 2023
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Mutation and Variation Definitions

Mutation

An alteration that can result in a different genetic trait.
A mutation in the gene caused the plant to produce blue flowers.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Variation

A manifestation of genetic diversity.
The variation among the fruit sizes was remarkable in the orchard.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023

Mutation

A change in the DNA sequence of an organism.
Exposure to certain chemicals can induce mutations in DNA.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 27, 2023

Variation

A difference or deviation found among members of the same species.
The variation in fur color among rabbits is due to both genetics and environment.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Mutation

A permanent transformation that can be inherited.
The mutation was passed down to the next generation of butterflies.
Harlon Moss
Oct 27, 2023

Variation

The range of differences present within a population.
Genetic tests showcased the wide variation in the sampled group.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Mutation

A deviation from the standard genetic code.
The rare mutation granted resistance against the disease.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Variation

An observable or measurable difference between individuals.
Studying variation helps scientists understand the adaptability of a species.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023

Mutation

A genomic phenomenon that can lead to variations within a species.
Scientists studied the mutation to understand its evolutionary implications.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023

Variation

A divergence arising from genetic and external factors.
Skin color variation in humans is influenced by geographical location and ancestry.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 27, 2023

Mutation

The act or process of being altered or changed.
Sumera Saeed
May 27, 2019

Variation

The act, fact, or process of varying.
Sumera Saeed
May 27, 2019

FAQs

What is a mutation?

A mutation is a change in an organism's DNA sequence.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

What contributes more to variation, genetics, or environment?

Both play significant roles, but the contribution varies depending on the trait in question.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Can mutations be beneficial?

Yes, some mutations can confer evolutionary advantages to organisms.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Is variation always visible?

No, variation can be both visible (like height) or invisible (like blood type).
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Why is studying variation vital in evolution?

Studying variation helps understand how species adapt, change, and evolve over time.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023

How does variation arise?

Variation arises from the combination of genetics and environmental influences.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 27, 2023

Why is variation essential for a population's survival?

Variation ensures genetic diversity, enabling populations to adapt to changing environments.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

How do mutations relate to genetic disorders?

Harmful mutations can lead to genetic disorders if they impact genes regulating vital functions.
Janet White
Oct 27, 2023

Does variation only pertain to physical traits?

No, variation can relate to any trait, be it physical, behavioral, or physiological.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Are mutations always hereditary?

Only mutations in reproductive cells are hereditary; others aren't passed to offspring.
Janet White
Oct 27, 2023

How do scientists measure variation?

Scientists use tools like genetic sequencing and statistical analysis to measure and study variation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Can a mutation lead to variation?

Yes, mutations are a primary source of genetic variation within populations.
Janet White
Oct 27, 2023

How do cells repair mutations?

Cells have repair mechanisms, like DNA repair enzymes, to fix mutations, but they aren't always successful.
Janet White
Oct 27, 2023

How is variation linked to evolution?

Variation provides a pool of genetic traits that natural selection can act upon, driving evolution.
Sara Rehman
Oct 27, 2023

What causes mutations in DNA?

Mutations can be caused by external agents, errors during DNA replication, or other cellular processes.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Can we prevent mutations?

While we can reduce exposure to mutagenic agents, we can't entirely prevent spontaneous mutations.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 27, 2023

Are mutations random?

Mutations are typically random regarding where and when they occur.
Sara Rehman
Oct 27, 2023

Can environment alone cause variation?

Yes, environmental factors can induce variations, especially in traits with strong environmental influences.
Harlon Moss
Oct 27, 2023

Are all mutations harmful?

No, mutations can be neutral, beneficial, or harmful.
Sara Rehman
Oct 27, 2023

How do mutations and variation impact biodiversity?

They contribute to genetic diversity, ensuring a rich variety of life forms.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 27, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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