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(ăt`əvizəm), the appearance in an individual of a characteristic not apparent in the preceding generation. At one time it was believed that such a phenomenon was thought to be a reversion of "throwback" to a hypothetical ancestral prototype. The term is seldom used today since science has shown that such abnormal characteristics can be explained by the inheritance of a pair of recessive genesgene,
the structural unit of inheritance in living organisms. A gene is, in essence, a segment of DNA that has a particular purpose, i.e., that codes for (contains the chemical information necessary for the creation of) a specific enzyme or other protein.
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. See MendelMendel, Gregor Johann
, 1822–84, Austrian monk noted for his experimental work on heredity. He entered the Augustinian monastery in Brno in 1843, taught at a local secondary school, and carried out independent scientific investigations on garden peas and other plants until
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the appearance in organisms of features that are absent in their immediate ancestors but which did exist in very distant ancestors. An example of atavism could be the development of a caudal appendage in man, the appearance of two extra toes along the sides of the completely developed middle toe of the horse, or the development of pinnately compound leaves instead of phyllodes in the green wattle. Since to a certain degree individuals repeat the organizational features of their ancestors in the developmental process, a disturbance of normal development can lead to a situation in which the adult organism keeps for its entire life the ancestral features which normally appear in the embryo and usually disappear in the course of further development. An example of such atavism would be the appearance in man of a cervical fistula reminiscent of the gill slit of his mammalian ancestors, the fishes and amphibians. Polymastia in man (the formation of a larger than normal number of pairs of mammary glands), tridactylism in horses, and so forth, are also related to atavism. Atavism also includes the occurrence of features from distant ancestors in the regeneration of organs. In this instance, the organs regenerate with the features characteristic of the more ancient forms. Thus, in the regeneration of a lizard’s tail, the scale rings are sometimes formed in a more primitive shape. Upon regeneration of the anterior end of the body in certain annelids, head appendages are formed which are missing in the given form but which are inherent in its ancestors.


Shimkevich, V. M. Biologicheskie osnovy zoologii. 5th ed., vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1923–25.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Appearance of a distant ancestral form of an organism or one of its parts due to reactivation of ancestral genes.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the recurrence in a plant or animal of certain primitive characteristics that were present in an ancestor but have not occurred in intermediate generations
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Leeder's contribution, "'A Species of One': The Atavistic Vampire from Dracula to The Wisdom of Crocodiles," is a lucid treatment of criminality and evolutionary science in its title texts, and it pairs well with the following essay, "Dracula the Anti-Christ: New Resurrection of an Immortal Prejudice," in which Melissa Olson explores manifestations of anti-Semitism in Stoker's Dracula and Patrick Lussier's film Dracula 2000.
a naturalist or decadent reading, "recasting the homosexual dandy as the atavistic brute, thus shifting its terms from a case of 'style' to a biological condition and offering" (104).
Atavistic culture became most prominent during times of rapid socio-economic change.
We argue specifically that the actual birth of grotesquely atavistic children in fiction, suddenly appearing at the turn of the twentieth century, is both historically bound and distinctly gendered: such children were usually the product of black male/white female sexual relationships that were seen by many whites as particularly threatening to white hegemonies at the historical moment.
The second self can go backward in time." The theme of de-evolution, of an atavistic descent into the unconscious, will reach full flower in the story's climax.
It's beginning to metastasize into a virulent form of xenophobia, an eruption of the atavistic human tendency to pick sides and then if necessary fight to the death for the side one chooses, and to not reason why.
Inadvertently, Benchley later wrote, he had tapped "a profound, subconscious, atavistic fear in the public." He also cemented sharks' reputation as grudge-bearing, human-hunting, boat-bashing killers--misconceptions since refuted by research.
In his writings, Aalto acknowledged that his designs started in an irrational way and that he was stirred by mythic and atavistic impulses.
Smoke in the Shadows, Lydia Lunch (Atavistic): Cult spokenword/performance-punk icon Lynch resurfaces with a new, surprisingly listenable sound, with jazz lounge-band instrumentation and subtle electro beats.
[and] such a cooperative order would require that Washington transcend the atavistic habits of empire." According to Ikenberry, the pursuit of empire through unilateral and preemptive use of force against other nations violates our democratic values and undermines our moral authority and legitimacy as a world leader.