Discrete resource polymorphisms occur in various vertebrate species and probably occur more frequently than is generally appreciated. They are manifested in a number of ways, including morphological, behavioral and life history characters. Research on a number of unrelated taxa suggests that resource polymorphisms may be underestimated as a diversifying force and potentially play important roles in population divergence and initial steps in speciation. In an ecological context, they are important in resource partitioning and reducing intraspecific competition. Recent research suggests that the mechanisms maintaining these polymorphisms may be similar in diverse taxa, that phenotypic plasticity is important, and that some are under simple genetic control.