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[nee-ot-n-ee] /niˈɒt n i/
noun, Biology
Also called pedogenesis. the production of offspring by an organism in its larval or juvenile form; the elimination of the adult phase of the life cycle.
a slowing of the rate of development with the consequent retention in adulthood of a feature or features that appeared in an earlier phase in the life cycle of ancestral individuals:
Neoteny in the ostrich has resulted in adult birds sporting the down feathers of nestlings.
1900-05; < New Latin neotēnia < Greek neo- neo- + teín(ein) to stretch + -ia -y3
Related forms
[nee-ot-n-uh s] /niˈɒt n əs/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for neoteny
  • Also, if he first human had the genetic abnormality to cause neoteny, that alone would cause an increase in brain size.
  • The biological term for this arrested development is neoteny.
  • Degree of behavioral neoteny differentiates canid polymorphs.
  • Many technical arguments beyond the scope of this essay indicate that neoteny has been a dominant theme of human evolution.
  • The result is what biologists call neoteny-the retention of undeveloped, immature traits in adulthood.
  • And neoteny seems to be common trait in many domesticated species.
British Dictionary definitions for neoteny


the persistence of larval or fetal features in the adult form of an animal. For example, the adult axolotl, a salamander, retains larval external gills See also paedogenesis
Derived Forms
neotenic (ˌniːəʊˈtɛnɪk), neotenous, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from New Latin neotenia, from Greek neo- + teinein to stretch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for neoteny

retention of juvenile characteristics in adult life, 1901, from German neotenie (1884), from Greek neos "young" (see new) + teinein "to extend" (see tenet).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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neoteny in Medicine

neoteny ne·ot·e·ny (nē-ŏt'n-ē)
The attainment of sexual maturity by an organism still in its larval stage.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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neoteny in Science
  1. The retention of juvenile characteristics in the adults of a species. Humans, for example, are sometimes said to demonstrate neoteny by retaining through adulthood the relatively large head and hairlessness characteristic of very young primates. The body proportions of flightless birds, which resemble those of fetal flying birds, are also considered to be evidence of neoteny.

  2. The attainment of sexual maturity by an organism still in its larval stage, seen in certain amphibians and insects. Certain species of salamanders, for instance, demonstrate neoteny as they become sexually mature but remain aquatic and do not develop legs. Neoteny sometimes occurs in response to environmental stresses such as low temperature or lack of iodine (which is essential for the thyroid gland). If environmental conditions improve, the organism can often develop into a fully mature adult form.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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