cline, in biology, any gradual change in a particular characteristic of a population of organisms from one end of the geographical range of the population to the other. Gradients of characteristics usually accompany, and are responses to, environmental gradients; for example, a mountain range features gradients from top to bottom such as a temperature gradient (colder to warmer) and a humidity gradient (wetter to drier). They may also reflect patterns of individual migration or gene flow. In species of birds and mammals, there is usually a cline in body size, with smaller individuals in warm climates and larger individuals tending to be found in colder climates.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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