Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to neoteny: pedomorphism, paedomorphism


neoteny (nēŏtˈənē), in biology, sexual maturity reached in the larval stage of some animals. Certain environmental conditions can inhibit the completion of metamorphosis; low temperature or lack of available iodine retard the action of the thyroid gland, the larval form may mature sexually, mate, and produce fertile eggs. If environmental conditions improve, neoteny is reversible; i.e., the larvae can complete metamorphosis and attain normal maturity. When neoteny occurs in some salamanders (see axolotl), they remain aquatic. In insects, reproduction in the larval stages is known as paedogenesis; it occurs in certain beetles and gall midges. In the midges, the daughter larvae produced within a mother larva consume the mother and escape; the process may continue for several generations.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the ability of certain organisms to attain sexual maturity and reproduce during the larval stage or elsewhere in their early ontogeny.

Neoteny is known to occur in some amphibians, arthropods, and worms, and in many plants. The larvae of the caudate salamanders of the genus Ambystoma, or axolotls, are the classic example of neoteny. Axolotls lost the capacity for metamorphosis but are able to reproduce, retaining the form of an aquatic animal with gills, fins, and other larval organs. Neoteny gave rise to the perennibranch caudate amphibians, such as the cave proteus (Necturus maculosus), the blind newt (Typhlomolge rathbun), and sirenians. These are matured “larvae” that maintain an aquatic mode of life.

In the plant world, neoteny is found among bryophytes, club mosses, ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. For example, the simple organization of structures in the duckweed originated as a result of a cessation in development during one of the earliest stages of ontogeny. An interesting example of neoteny is the female gametophyte in angiosperms, the embryo sac.


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


[′nē·ə‚tē·nē or nē′ät·ən·ē]
(vertebrate zoology)
A phenomenon peculiar to some salamanders, in which large larvae become sexually mature while still retaining gills and other larval features.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Neoteny thus allows maturation rather than mere aging and, as "one of the mechanisms of evolutionary development" (1939, 102), provides a way to put "evolution ...
While our only a-priori hypothesis was that neoteny would help explain heightened preferences for the faces of jumping spiders, comments from participants helped us identify other potentially important perceptual cues in how people respond to spiders.
Her topics are the origin of somatic and germ cells during larval stages and juvenile periods; the male reproductive system, testis development and structure, urogenital connections and reproductive tract, spermatogenesis, and regulation of the reproductive cycle; the female reproductive system; and early embryonic and post-embryonic development, direct development, and neoteny. Distributed in the US by Enfield.
Kevin Carroll: Nurture your neoteny (juvenilization) I heard the term neoteny used several years ago by Dr.
This could indicate neoteny in the riverine species, but in order to be able to interpret this variation a more thorough morphometric study is needed.
These traits include changes in body size and shape, reduction of brain size, increased variety in color, increased deposit of fat and muscle, and retention of juvenile, or immature characteristics, which is known as neoteny (ne-oht-ah-ne).
Another common result of domestication is neoteny, or maintaining juvenile physical and behavioral characteristics into maturity.
Beauty rears its ugly head, of course: there would be no "Wonderful Tonight" without Pattie's long blonde hair, corn-flower-blue eyes, neoteny (the retention of such juvenile characteristics as large, widely-spaced eyes), and diastema (that adorable little space between the front teeth that drove director Les Blank, for example, so mad he made a film in 1987 called "Gap-Toothed Women" to celebrate it).
Neoteny is the persistence of infantile or juvenile characteristics into adulthood.
Bruce Charlton, an evolutionary psychiatrist at Newcastle University, has coined the term "psychological neoteny" to describe the trend of people who never grow up, mentally speaking.
The researchers scanned the actresses' photos into a computer, did various measurements, and determined that, lo and behold, the ones who were the most popular during social and economic good times had more "neoteny"--more childlike features, including bigger eyes, smaller chins, and rounder cheeks.
Considering these characters, in combination with the small size of the animals, suggests the possibility that their evolution involves progenesis or neoteny and, in that case, that their indicated basal positions among hesionids may be spurious.