Difference Between Genetic Variation and Environmental Variation

Key Difference – Genetic Variation vs Environmental Variation 

All organisms living on earth develop variations due to either genetic effects or environmental effects or both. Change in the genetic sequence due to genetic effects is defined as the genetic variation and the variation due to environmental effects is defined as the environmental variation. Because of these variations, organisms show a significant number of morphological, behavioral, and biochemical characteristics. Some variations can be identified immediately, but some cannot. For example, some morphological variations like height, eye color, and hair color etc., is easily distinguished among individuals. However, biochemical and some behavioral variations (ex: knowledge, preferences, etc.) are difficult to identify easily. Genetic variation and environmental variation are both vital for natural selection and evolutionary changes. However, there is some difference in the way they affect the organisms. The key difference between genetic variation and environmental variation is that genetic variation mainly affects the genotype though it also affects the phenotype, but environmental variation mainly affects the phenotype. Also, most of the genetic variations are passed to the next generations, but the environmental variations that change the gene pool are only passed to the next generations. In this article, let us explore the differences that exist between genetic variation and environmental variation in more detail while understanding the effect of these two variations in organisms.

What is Genetic Variation?

Genetic variation is defined as a change in genetic sequence due to DNA mutation, gene flow, and sexual reproduction. Genetic variations are extremely vital to develop adaptations among individuals within a population that ultimately lead to natural selection and evolutionary changes. Because of the environmental changes and completion within a population, individuals have to develop more favorable adaptations in order to survive. The individuals who have developed more favorable variations will survive and pass their traits to next generation. Genetic variations can be seen at every genetic level; DNA, chromosomes, genes and proteins.

Difference Between Genetic Variation and Environmental Variation

What is Environmental Variation?

Individuals with the same genotype may develop variation due to different environmental conditions such as climatic conditions, diet, physical accidents, lifestyle, culture, etc. These type of variations are known as environmental variations. Sometimes, strong environmental variations affect the genotype. However, most of the environmental variations affect phenotype. Even if an individual possesses genes for various phenotypes, the environment determines how those phenotypes develop. For example, an individual might inherit a tendency to be tall, but the poor diet during developing stages will result in poor growth.

 Genetic Variation vs Environmental Variation

What is the difference between Genetic Variation and Environmental Variation?

Definitions of Genetic Variation and Environmental Variation:

Genetic Variation: Genetically induced variations due to DNA mutation, gene flow, and sexual reproduction are called genetic variations.

Environmental Variation: Environmentally induced variations due to different environmental factors are called environmental variations.

Characteristics of Genetic Variation and Environmental Variation:

Passing On:

Genetic Variation: Most of the genetic variations are passed to next generations.

Environmental Variation: Some of the environmental variations that change the gene pool are only passed to next generations.

Effect:

Genetic Variation: Genotype is mainly affected by genetic variations. Genetic variation also affects phenotype.

Environmental Variation: Phenotype is affected mainly by the environmental variation.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. A range of variability in the mussel Donax variabilis by Debivort (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Environmental Variation by  Futurebird (CC BY-SA 3.0)