All prokaryotes reproduce asexually, without the formation and fusion of gametes. Many plants and fungi also reproduce asexually, meaning that they are genetically identical to their parent. Types of asexual reproduction include:
  • Binary fission (bacteria)
  • Budding (yeast)
  • Vegetative reproduction (strawberry runners, aloe)
  • Sporulation (fungi, algae, ferns)
  • Fragmentation (annelids, sea-stars)
  • Parthenogenesis (some lizards, sharks and stick-insects)
This week we will begin to study molecular genetics – the foundations of ‘who we are’, before environmental factors play a role. Half your DNA comes from your mother (eggs produced in the ovaries) and half from your father (sperm produced in the testes). This DNA contains genes and genes code for proteins, so the gametes (eggs and sperm) contain the genetic instructions that cross the generation gap, giving you the characteristics that you share with your biological parents. The genetic instructions in an organism make up it’s genotype, which is expressed visually as the phenotype (physical, biochemical and physiological traits).
Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, often referred to as the diploid number or 2n=46. The image above is called a karyotype, used to assist with chromosomal analysis – is this one from a male or female? Chromosomes can be distinguished by their relative size, position of the centromere and the patterns of light an dark bands. Matching pairs are said to be homologous. A human male has non-homologous sex chromosomes (XY).

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was an Austrian monk who is known as the father of modern genetics due to his experimental work with plant hybridization. It was Mendel who first coined the terms “dominant” and “recessive” and he formulated generalizations that have become known as “Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance”. “Mendel’s Pea Genetics – Experiments that changed the world” is a twenty-five minute documentary that describes his life. Complete the following three activities:

More Resources for this Unit: