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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a direction of the evolutionary process that leads to the elaboration of maximum adaptations to life under environmental conditions less diverse than those that existed previously and to a decrease in competition with other species.

Specialization, one of the paths of evolutionary progress, is characterized by a narrowing of the adaptive zone and by intensified development of characters that ensure survival in that zone. Specialization makes it difficult to elaborate adaptations to changing conditions. As a result, a group that has embarked on the path of specialization usually evolves in the direction of further, even more narrow, specialization. With a sharp change in the environment, such a group cannot readjust itself and becomes extinct. However, with unchanging conditions, specialized species may exist without change throughout several geological periods (for example, Xiphosura and deepwater Brachiopoda).

The principal types of specialization are telomorphosis, hyper-morphosis, katamorphosis, and hypomorphosis. Telomorphosis, the most common form of specialization, is the narrow adaptation to specific conditions of existence, such as feeding (hummingbirds, sunbirds, anteaters) or habitat (sloths, moles, chameleons, marine iguanas). Hypermorphosis is the overdevelopment of certain organs (the upper canine teeth of the saber-tooth tiger, the tusks of mastodons) or an increase in overall body size (giant dinosaurs of the Mesozoic, mammals of the Tertiary period). Ka-tamorphosis, the secondary simplification of organization, results from a transfer to a sessile or parasitic life (ascidians, flatworms). Hypomorphosis is the underdevelopment of an organism as a result of neoteny (appendicularians, caudate amphibians).


Shmal’gauzen, I. I. Puti i zakonomernosti evoliutsionnogo protsessa. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Shmal’gauzen, I. I. Problemy darvinizma, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1969.
Timofeev-Resovskii, N. V., N. N. Vorontsov, and A. V. Iablokov. Kratkii ocherk teoriievoliutsii. Moscow, 1969.


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