An animal with a band of discolored fur around its torso is an example of a neutral mutation, because the discoloration has no effect on the animal's ability to survive or reproduce. This type of mutation occurs in both plants and animals.
Changes in normal coloration are often neutral mutations. Heterochromia iridum, a condition in which the eyes are different colors, is a neutral mutation that occurs in several animal species. A similar neutral mutation in humans is red hair.
The most important characteristic of a neutral mutation is that it does not alter the survival of the organism but simply alters its appearance or structure in some way. Neutral mutations are the most frequently observed type of genetic mutation. However, because they have neither a positive or negative effect on the survival of the species, they tend to disappear over time.
Another way to explain neutral mutations is that they are not spread through natural selection. Natural selection is the principle in genetics that says a mutation spreads throughout a species because it benefits the species' survival. The principle also holds that detrimental mutations soon disappear, since the affected organisms in the population are unable to survive or reproduce.