Mendelian Inheritance and Classical Genetics
According to the theory of Mendelian inheritance, variations in phenotype—the observable physical and behavioral characteristics of an organism—are due to variations in genotype, or the organism's particular set of genes, each of which specifies a particular trait. Different forms of a gene, which may give rise to different phenotypes, are known as alleles. Organisms such as the pea plants Mendel worked on, along with many plants and animals, have two alleles for each trait, one inherited from each parent. Alleles may be dominant or recessive; dominant alleles give rise to their corresponding phenotypes when paired with any other allele for the same trait, whereas recessive alleles give rise to their corresponding phenotype only when paired with another copy of the same allele. For example, if the allele specifying tall stems in pea plants is dominant over the allele specifying short stems, then pea plants that inherit one tall allele from one parent and one short allele from the other parent will also have tall stems. Mendel's work demonstrated that alleles assort independently in the production of gametes, or germ cells, ensuring variation in the next generation.
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