Reproductive success
Reproductive success is defined as the passing of gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s onto the next generation
Generation , also known as procreation in biological sciences, is the act of producing offspring....

 in a way that they too can pass those genes on. In practice, this is often a tally of the number of offspring produced by an individual. A more correct definition, which incorporates inclusive fitness
Inclusive fitness
In evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, the inclusive fitness of an organism is the sum of its classical fitness and the number of equivalents of its own offspring it can add to the population by supporting others...

, is the relative production of fertile offspring by a genotype. For example, the offspring
In biology, offspring is the product of reproduction, of a new organism produced by one or more parents.Collective offspring may be known as a brood or progeny in a more general way...

 produced as a result of normal mating
In biology, mating is the pairing of opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms for copulation. In social animals, it also includes the raising of their offspring. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization...

 are an example of reproductive success, because they too can pass their genetic material on to the next generation. Alternatively, the birth of a mule
A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two F1 hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny...

 as a result of the mating of a horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 and a donkey
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E...

 is not an example of reproductive success because the mule is sterile and thus not able to continue the germ line.

Reproductive success is part of the calculation for fitness
Fitness (biology)
Fitness is a central idea in evolutionary theory. It can be defined either with respect to a genotype or to a phenotype in a given environment...

 and a key element in the theories of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 and evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

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