On of the most important contributions made to the science of evolution by Charles Darwin is the concept of natural selection. The idea that members of a species compete with each other for resources and that individuals that are better adapted to their lifestyle have a better chance of surviving to reproduce revolutionized the field of evolution, though it was not accepted until several decades after Darwin first proposed it. Today, natural selection forms the basis for our understanding of how species change over time.

Natural selection may act to change a trait in many different ways. When selection pressures favor the average form of the trait, selection is said to be stabilizing. Directional selection occurs when selection pressures favor one extreme of the trait distribution. Selection is disruptive when the average form of the trait is selected against while either extreme is unaffected.

In addition to natural selection, there are two other types of selection. Sexual selection, which Darwin believed was distinct from natural selection, involves the selection of traits based on their role in courtship and mating. Artificial selection is the selective breeding of species by humans to increase desirable traits, though the traits do not necessarily have to confer greater fitness.