Mutation vs. Variation

The key difference between mutation and variation is that mutation is the sudden change in the DNA either in the nucleotide sequence or in base pairs while variation denotes how the individuals or group of individuals differ from each other in phenotype.

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Mutation vs. Variation

There are many differences between mutation and variation either both are linked with each other. Mutation refers to ‘sudden change in the gene’ at DNA level either in the nucleotide sequence or base pairs. While variation indicates the distinct features among different organisms or group of organisms of the same species.

Mutation is a spontaneous change in the DNA while variation is the result of that spontaneous change at DNA.

The effect of mutation occurs on the single organism while variation is seen among individuals or group of individuals of the same species.

There are many agents that may cause mutations, i.e., ionizing radiations, errors in DNA replication,  chemicals, radioactive rays, certain mutagens or X-rays. While the causative agents of genetic variation are crossing over, gene deletion, gene insertion, translocation of the gene, mutation, genetic drift, genetic flow, and environmental factors.

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The mutation may be beneficial or harmful for the individual suffering from it. It may cause severe diseases to the organisms or may adapt them better to their environment while genetic variations according to natural selection are usually very beneficial for species. They make them able to survive in a better way in their environment.

Mutations can be classified in many ways, i.e., germline or somatic mutations, hereditary or acquired mutations, fixed (stable) or unfixed (unstable) mutations, etc. Variations are of four types, i.e., genetic variation, environmental variation, continuous variation, and discontinuous variation.

Mutations in the germline cells are transferred to the next generation. Similarly, genetic variations are always transferred to the next progeny.

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Comparison chart

Basis MutationVariation
Definition Mutation is the sudden genetic change at the DNA level either in the base pairs or nucleotide sequence.Variation denotes the difference in the characteristics of the organisms or group of organisms of the same speice, e.g., the difference in color of eyes, nails, and color of skin, etc.
Affects The mutation affects only a single organism in which it is occurring.Variation is found in a single organism or group of organisms of same specie.
Which type of impact it leaves The mutation may be beneficial for the organism, but usually, it is harmful. For example mutations, during DNA replication if not corrected cause cancer in the affected cellsGenetic Variations are usually beneficial for the organisms. They become them able to live in the environment in a better way and adapt them to their environment.
Causative agents There are many causative agents for mutations, i.e., radiations, certain drugs, radiations, chemicals, errors in the DNA replication and failure to correct it and X-rays, etc.There are many causes of genetic variations, i.e., mutations, natural selection, gene insertion, gene deletion or translocation, gene flow, gene drift, and environmental factors.
Occurs in Mutations are at the DNA level (in the genome of an individual).Variations occur at the genetic level, but their effect is seen in the phenotype of the individual.
Subtypes Mutation is divided into subtypes in different ways, i.e., germline or somatic mutations, hereditary or acquired mutations, stable or unstable mutations.Variations are divided into four major types, i.e. environmental variation, genetic variation, continuous variation and discontinuous variation.
Transfer to the next generation Mutations in the germline cells are transferred to the next generation.Genetic variations run across the generations and adapt them to their environment.

What is a Mutation?

Mutation is the sudden genetic  change at the DNA level due to change in the nucleotide sequence or sequence in the bases. Mutations may be in the germline cells or somatic cells. That mutation which takes place in the somatic cells affects only single individual and function of that cell is compromised while the mutations which take place in the germline cells does not affect that individual rather affects the next generation.

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Many causative agents may cause mutations, i.e., ionizing radiations, drugs, toxins, X-rays, errors in the DNA replication which are not corrected. Mutations are said to be beneficial in the sense that they may lead to genetic variation and thus helps the individual in better adaptation to their environment. But may prove dangerous sometime. Its example can be given as cancer also takes place due to the mutation during DNA replication which is later not corrected by enzymes. The example of the good effect of mutation for the survival of the individual is the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria which has become them able to survive better.

What is the Variation?

The word variation means “to differ from.” Thus, the term variation denotes the specific and distinct characteristics among different organisms or group of organisms of the same species. For example, how they are different from each other in color or eyes, the shape of body, complexion, and height. Variations may occur due to many causes, i.e., gene insertion, translocation, deletion, gene drift, gene flow, selection pressure, and environmental factors.

Genetic variations make the organisms able to adapt to their environment and survive in a better way. Variations are divided into different types. Environmental variations take place due to changes in the external environment which are further processed by natural selection. Genetic variations take place due to changes in the gene pool, and they are the variations which are transferred to the next generation. Variation is, in fact, the change in the gene pool and its effect on the phenotype of the individual.

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Key Differences

  1. Mutation is the sudden genetic change at DNA level due to change in nucleotide sequence or base pair while variation is the difference in the properties of one individual or group of individuals of the same species.
  2. The mutation affects only one individual while variation affects one or a group of individuals.
  3. Mutation takes place due to radiation, drugs or error in the DNA replication while variation occurs due to selection pressure, gene insertion, gene deletion, translocation, mutation or gene drift.
  4. The mutation may be beneficial or harmful for the individual while variation is always beneficial.
  5. Mutation in the germline cells is transferred to the next progeny while genetic variation is also transferred to the next generations.

Video Explanation

Conclusion

Mutation and variation are two commonly used terms in biology. Often they are confused with each other, but both have many differences between them. Biology students must know the differentiating points of both terms. In the above article, we learned the clear differences between mutation and variation.

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