1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Atavism

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ATAVISM (from Lat. atavus, a great-great-great-grandfather or ancestor), the term given in biology to the reproduction in a living person or animal of the characteristics of an ancestor more remote than its parents (see Heredity). Loosely used, it connotes a reversion to an earlier type. Individuals reproduce unexpectedly the traits of earlier ancestors, and ethnologists and criminologists frequently explain by “atavism” the occurrence of degenerate species of man; but the whole subject is complicated by other possible explanations of such phenomena, included in the scientific study of normal “variation.”