(1) The existence, in a population, of two or more alleles of a gene, where the frequency of the rarer alleles is greater than can be explained by recurrent mutation alone (typically greater than 1%). HLA alleles of the major histocompatibility complex are very polymorphic.
(2) The differentiation of various parts of the units of colonial animals into different types of unit specialized for different purposes, eg. as in the colonial hydroid Obelia.

Dictionary of molecular biology. 2004.

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