Archive for the ‘10th Science’ category

Biology X | Heredity and Evolution | How do these Traits get Expressed and sex determination

June 29th, 2010

How do these Traits get Expressed?

How does the mechanism of heredity work? Cellular DNA is the information source for making proteins in the cell. A section of DNA that provides information for one protein is called the gene for that protein. How do proteins control the characteristics that we are discussing here? Let us take the example of tallness as a characteristic. We know that plants have hormones that can trigger growth. Plant height can thus depend on the amount of a particular plant hormone. The amount of the plant hormone made will depend on the efficiency of the process for making it. Consider now an enzyme that is important for this process. If this enzyme works efficiently, a lot of hormone will be made, and the plant will be tall. If the gene for that enzyme has an alteration that makes the enzyme less efficient, the amount of hormone will be less, and the plant will be short. Thus, genes control characteristics, or traits.

If the interpretations of Mendelian experiments we have been discussing are correct, then both parents must be contributing equally to the DNA of the progeny during sexual reproduction. We have disscussed this issue in the previous Chapter. If both parents can help determine the trait in the progeny, both parents must be contributing a copy of the same gene. This means that each pea plant must have two sets of all genes, one inherited from each parent. For this mechanism to work, each germ cell must have only one gene set.

How do germ-cells make a single set of genes from the normal two copies that all other cells in the body have? If progeny plants inherited a single whole gene set from each parent, then the experiment in Fig. 9.5 cannot work. This is because the two characteristics ‘R’ and ‘y’ would then be linked to each other and cannot be independently inherited. This is explained by the fact that each gene set is present, not as a single long thread of DNA, but as separate independent pieces, each called a chromosome. Thus, each cell will have two copies of each chromosome, one each from the male and female parents. Every germcell will take one chromosome from each pair and these may be of either maternal or paternal origin. When two germ cells combine, they will restore the normal number of chromosomes in the progeny, ensuring the stability of the DNA of the species. Such a mechanism of inheritance explains the results of the Mendel experiments, and is used by all sexually reproducing organisms. But asexually reproducing organisms also follow similar rules of inheritance. Can we work out how their inheritance might work?

Sex Determination

We have discussed the idea that the two sexes participating in sexual reproduction must be somewhat different from each other for a number of reasons. How is the sex of a newborn individual determined? Different species use very different strategies for this. Some rely entirely on environmental cues. Thus, in some animals, the temperature at which fertilised eggs are kept determines whether the animals developing in the eggs will be male or female. In other animals, such as snails, individuals can change sex, indicating that sex is not genetically determined. However, in human beings, the sex of the individual is largely genetically determined. In other words, the genes inherited from our parents decide whether we will be boys or girls. But so far, we have assumed that similar gene sets are inherited from both parents. If that is the case, how can genetic inheritance determine sex?

» Read more: Biology X | Heredity and Evolution | How do these Traits get Expressed and sex determination


Biology X | Heredity and Evolution | HEREDITY | Inherited Traits

June 29th, 2010


The most obvious outcome of the reproductive process still remains the generation of individuals of similar design. The rules of heredity determine the process by which traits and characteristics are reliably inherited. Let us take a closer look at these rules.

Inherited Traits

What exactly do we mean by similarities and differences? We know that a child bears all the basic features of a human being. However, it does not look exactly like its parents, and human populations show a great

deal of variation.

Activity 9.1

  1. Observe the ears of all the students in the class. Prepare a list of students having free or attached earlobes and calculate the percentage of students having each (Fig. 9.2). Find out about the earlobes of the parents of each student in the class. Correlate the earlobe type of each student with that of their parents. Based on this evidence, suggest a possible rule for the inheritance of earlobe types.


Rules for the Inheritance of Traits –

Mendel’s Contributions The rules for inheritance of such traits in human beings are related to the fact that both the father and the mother contribute practically equal amounts of genetic material to the child. This means that each trait can be influenced by both paternal and maternal DNA. Thus, for each trait there will be two versions in each child. What will, then, the trait seen in the child be? Mendel (see box) worked out the main rules of such inheritance, and it is interesting to look at some of his experiments from more than a century ago.

» Read more: Biology X | Heredity and Evolution | HEREDITY | Inherited Traits