Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Retention of juvenile characteristics in the adults of a species, as among certain amphibians.
  • n. The attainment of sexual maturity by an organism still in its larval stage.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The retention of juvenile characteristics in the adult.
  • n. The sexual maturity of an organism still in its larval stage.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In biology: The reversion of a phylum to a modified embryonic condition.
  • n. The retention by an organism of larval or juvenile characters beyond the time characteristic of other members of the group to which it belongs. This may be partial, as in the case of some toads and frogs, whose young pass the winter in the tadpole condition, or total, as in some salamanders that retain their external gills when adult. Also neotenia.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an evolutionary trend to be born earlier so that development is cut off at an earlier stage and juvenile characteristics are retained in adults of the species

Etymologies

New Latin neotenia : neo- + Greek teinein, ten-, to extend; see tenesmus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From German Neotenie, in turn from Ancient Greek νέος (neos, "young") and τείνειν (teinein, "tend to"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Humans, especially females, are likewise evolutionarily wired to respond in a nurturing way to faces that have a quality of neoteny, which is to say, the retention of infantile characteristics: large head, wide and prominent eyes, slightly helpless and winsome.

    For the Cheerleader in Everyone

  • It seems highly plausible that, as Australopithecus evolved through various intermediates to Homo sapiens, shortening the muzzle all along the way, it did so by the obvious route of retaining juvenile characteristics into adulthood the process called neoteny, mentioned in Chapter 2.

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  • What they found was quite consistent with the notion of neoteny, not only for body shape but for dog language.

    How to Speak Dog

  • The most important of these involves neoteny, which is the technical term describing the fact that certain juvenile features and behaviors are retained in the adult.

    How to Speak Dog

  • This condition, called neoteny, means it keeps its tadpole-like dorsal fin, which runs almost the length of its body, and its feathery external gills, which protrude from the back of its wide head.

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  • "Dinosaurs, like birds and many mammals, retain neoteny, that is, they retain their juvenile characteristics for a long period of growth," Horner said, "which is a strong indicator that they were very social animals, grouping in flocks or herds with long periods of parental care."

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  • Attributing homosexuality to any single factor, whether "neoteny" or an absent father gives the impression that there is something abnormal, something that requires treatment.

    Desmond Morris on male homosexuality

  • The neoteny issue is a pervasive cultural problem, but it applies to men and women alike in all aspects of our culture.

    Kicking The Dog

  • She even raised (and educated me in) the biology concept of neoteny, whereby new species begin to resemble the embryos of the animals from whence they evolved -- chihuahuas, for example, look like fetal wolves.

    Kicking The Dog

  • For me, he's fascinating as one of those ironic antiheroes, subverting the champion in his neoteny/effeteness, in his innocence -- everyboy rather than everyman.

    A Theory of Modes and Modalities

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