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  Atavism (from Latin atavus, ‘great-grandfather\'s grandfather’), in the life sciences, is the idea that an individual may bear features which are more typical of its ancestors than of its parents. Mendelian heredity provides a mechanism for this phenomenon, and it is not uncommon for characteristics to reappear after being absent from several generations. However, the term atavism has been associated with the appearance of what are seen as degenerate forms, or throwbacks, though these are in fact genetic aberrations. For example, Down\'s Syndrome is a congenital condition which was once thought to be a throwback to perceived ancestors; the facial characteristics associated with the syndrome thus led to the name ‘Mongolism’. RB

See also genetic linkage; genetics; Mendelism.



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