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Natural selection and the survival of the fittest

Natural selection and the survival of the fittest are part of the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, in his book The Origin of Species and in subsequent works. They are concepts that maintain that the living beings that are best adapted to their environment are the ones that will have a greater chance of survival . In addition, the presence of certain traits in an individual will make it more apt to survive than another.

Charles Darwin and natural evolution

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist, biologist and geologist and one of the most important scientists of the 19th century and in the history of science. As a result of his research, he created one of the most revolutionary ideas of all time: the theory of the evolution of species , which links the concepts of adaptation and survival.

In order to develop the theory of biological evolution, through natural selection, he made countless observations and experiments in nature, concluding that all species of living beings evolved over time. Also, that they have a common ancestor from which the process called natural selection began .

Currently, Darwin’s theory is the basis of knowledge about evolution. Biological evolution is the historical process of transformation of some species into others through reproduction, which includes the emergence of new traits and the extinction of species.

With modern scientific advances, Darwin’s discoveries are still valid today and are part of the explanation of the development of life and living beings.

Differences between natural selection and survival of the fittest

Natural selection is a transformation that occurs in living things. They are variations that pass from generation to generation, improving the traits of the species, increasing its probability of survival. Likewise, they reduce or eliminate useless or harmful characteristics. It is a process that the living being goes through different evolutions and changes throughout history. As a result, it grows stronger and better adapted to the environment around it.

Natural selection is, therefore, the process in which some organisms live and reproduce and others, instead, die before reproducing. It is the way in which species adapt to their environment, according to the conditions to which they are exposed. In this way, only individuals capable of adapting favorably will survive, and their genes will be passed on to their offspring, thus continuing the chain of evolution.

The phrase survival of the fittest appeared after Darwin’s theory. The first to use it was the British economist Herbert Spencer, to compare some economic concepts. This interpretation of natural selection became popular, and Darwin later used the phrase in his explanations of natural selection.

However, natural selection and survival of the fittest do not mean the same thing. The main difference is that natural selection is a process in which survival of the fittest occurs.

What it means to be “fitter

One of the interesting concepts of Darwinism maintains that everything that exists is good on a biological level and that we live in the best of all possible worlds, because otherwise, natural selection would have already eliminated what is harmful.

But this idea of ​​the fittest cannot be applied to everything and there are exceptions. The individuals that survive are not always the strongest or the fastest or the smartest. Therefore, survival of the fittest is not the best way to describe natural selection. In fact, Darwin considered as “fittest” the members of the species that best adapted to their environment, thus participating in natural selection.

The idea of ​​”fittest” is often a bit confusing and in some cases, it is used as a synonym for “natural selection”. However, a fittest individual is not necessarily one with good traits or outstanding characteristics, but rather, an individual with the essential traits to survive in the surrounding environment.

Precisely, when we talk about the survival of the fittest, we refer to organisms that possess certain traits that allow them to survive better than others. This trait or set of adaptation traits are transmitted to their descendants, increasing their chances of being able to survive and ensuring the continuity of the favorable characteristics.

Taking into account that an individual requires the most favorable traits to survive in the environment it inhabits, it can be deduced that the individuals with the best adaptations will manage to live long enough to transmit their genes to their offspring. In contrast, those without beneficial traits, “the unfit,” probably will not live long enough to reproduce and pass on their unfavorable traits to their offspring. Over time, the unfavorable traits will disappear. In fact, the process of reducing and eliminating unfavorable genes can take many generations.


  • Darwin, C. The Origin of Species . (2013). Spain. e-artnow.
  • Bass, JM A Brief History of Evolutionary Thought: from Antiquity to Darwin. (2017). Spain. Spanish Academic Editorial.
  • Bermudez de Castro, JM; Briones Llorente, C. Fernández Soto, A. Origins: The universe, life, humans . (2015). Spain. Editorial Critic.