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alteration in the genetic constitution of the reproductive cells, occurring in the cell divisions that result in sperm and eggs. Germinal mutations can be caused by radiation or chemical mutagens and may affect a single gene or an entire chromosome. A germinal mutation affects the progeny of the individual in whose reproductive cells the mutation arose and subsequent generations of that progeny. Unlike somatic mutations, which occur in the body cells and are not passed on to later generations, germinal mutations are important sources of genetic variation in natural populations that lead to evolutionary change through natural selection.