As I understand it, a population with high variation is something sought after, since it makes the population better equipped to face a dynamic environment.

Then, I guess features in an individual which causes it's population's variation to be high, should be selected for (high mutation rate, other features.. ?).

If so, does this manifest itself partly as individuals preferring to mate with individuals from another population? (With genetic difference within reason, perhaps a norm for a proffered genetic difference between individuals)

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    $\begingroup$ I think you have an interesting question here but I think you are giving too much intent to evolutionary processes. Unless the population is being managed (like in a preserve or zoo) there is no one to strive for high variation. In a dynamic environment, a population with high variation is less likely to go extinct but this is not consciously anticipated or planned for by the members of that population in the anthropomorphic sense that you seem to imply. $\endgroup$ – DQdlM Jun 18 '12 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming a population lives in a highly dynamic environment and mutation is the only source introducing variation. Some in the population has genes that code for a slow mutation rate and the others have has genes that code for a high mutation rate. Shouldn't genes that code for a mutation rate appropriate to the environment be selected for? Perhaps a rate that is proportional to the environment's 'dynamicness' , in this case high. $\endgroup$ – Elias Jun 18 '12 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ The term "striving" and the phrase "the individual should strive" raise concerns like those in the comment by @DQdlM. I would suggest re-phrasing the question. $\endgroup$ – Abe Jun 19 '12 at 4:37

I believe there are evidences in both directions in terms of mechanisms to favor variation in a population: outbreeding and crossing within individuals that look alike. There is a fine line between the two. Outbreeding helps in keeping variation and mixing variants that appeared in different parts of the population, but too much outbreeding can generate inviable offspring. Too much inbreeding also reduces viability. Certain plants have features that are selected to favor outbreeding and make inbreeding incompatible by rejecting incompatible ("self") pollen (self-incompatibility mechanisms).

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