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Natural Selection vs. Artificial Selection: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 18, 2023
Natural selection is nature-driven evolution; artificial selection is human-directed breeding.

Key Differences

Natural selection and artificial selection are both mechanisms by which species change over time, but they have distinct drivers.
Natural selection is a process by which organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and reproduce more than less adapted organisms, leading to evolutionary changes. Artificial selection, on the other hand, involves humans intentionally breeding certain organisms with desired traits.
natural selection is governed by the pressures of the environment and results in adaptations beneficial for survival, artificial selection is driven by human preferences and can lead to traits that might not necessarily be advantageous in a wild setting.
In essence, while natural selection is a passive process where nature determines the fittest, artificial selection is an active process where humans decide which traits are preferable.
It's important to understand that both natural selection and artificial selection can significantly shape the characteristics of populations, but the underlying motivations and mechanisms of the two processes differ substantially.

Comparison Chart


Environmental pressures and survival.
Human preferences and desires.


Traits beneficial for survival in wild environments.
Traits that humans find desirable or beneficial.

Speed of Change

Generally slower, spans many generations.
Can be rapid with intensive breeding practices.


Affects wild populations.
Typically affects domesticated species.


Unintentional, passive process.
Intentional, directed process.

Natural Selection and Artificial Selection Definitions

Natural Selection

The process where organisms better adapted to their environment outlive others.
Natural selection favored birds with larger beaks during the drought.

Artificial Selection

Purposeful breeding to accentuate or eliminate traits.
Through artificial selection, roses were bred for more vibrant colors.

Natural Selection

Survival and reproduction determined by adaptability.
Natural selection ensured that only the fastest cheetahs caught enough prey.

Artificial Selection

Breeding organisms to produce desired traits.
Through artificial selection, farmers developed seedless watermelons.

Natural Selection

Evolutionary changes driven by environmental pressures.
Through natural selection, certain fish developed camouflage to blend in with their surroundings.

Artificial Selection

Manipulating an organism's genetics for specific outcomes.
Artificial selection in agriculture has given us high-yielding crop varieties.

Natural Selection

Nature's way of refining species over generations.
Natural selection led to the development of complex eyes in many animals.

Artificial Selection

Human-driven selection of organismal traits.
Artificial selection led to the wide variety of dog breeds we have today.

Natural Selection

The mechanism behind the survival of the fittest.
Natural selection played a role in the woolly mammoth's extinction.

Artificial Selection

Humans guiding the evolution of domestic species.
Artificial selection has made farm chickens larger over the decades.


Can artificial selection produce rapid changes?

Yes, artificial selection can lead to rapid trait changes with intensive breeding.

Are all domesticated species results of artificial selection?

Many, but not all. Many domesticated species have been shaped significantly by artificial selection.

Is natural selection a fast process?

Generally, natural selection is a slower process spanning many generations.

Can artificial selection occur without human intervention?

By definition, artificial selection requires human intentionality.

Can artificial selection lead to health problems in organisms?

Yes, some traits favored by artificial selection can result in health issues.

Does natural selection always lead to better organisms?

It leads to organisms better adapted to their current environment.

Is human evolution a result of natural selection?

Yes, humans have evolved through natural selection, among other processes.

Can traits bred through artificial selection be passed to offspring?

Yes, traits achieved through artificial selection can be hereditary.

Does natural selection have a purpose or goal?

No, it's a passive process without a predetermined goal.

Are there ethical concerns with artificial selection?

Yes, there can be ethical concerns, especially if it causes harm or suffering.

Can natural selection lead to new species?

Yes, over long periods, natural selection can contribute to speciation.

Why do breeders use artificial selection?

To achieve specific desired traits in organisms.

What's a common misconception about natural selection?

That it produces "perfect" organisms. It produces organisms adapted to their current environment.

What drives natural selection?

Environmental pressures and survival drive natural selection.

Who or what decides traits in artificial selection?

Humans decide the traits in artificial selection based on preferences.

Does natural selection work only in the wild?

Predominantly, yes. Natural selection primarily affects wild populations.

Have humans affected the course of natural selection in other species?

Yes, through activities like habitat destruction and pollution, humans can influence natural selection.

Is artificial selection a modern concept?

No, humans have practiced artificial selection for thousands of years, especially in agriculture.

Do all traits favored by natural selection have obvious benefits?

Not always. Some benefits might be subtle or context-dependent.

Who coined the term "natural selection"?

Charles Darwin is credited with coining the term "natural selection."
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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