All you Need to Know about Heredity in Biology
Heredity is the reason why children get passed on certain physical traits from their parents, and why the constancy of a species from one generation to another is assured. Much has been discovered about Heredity since its earliest studies, and heredity’s definition in biology has undergone some major revisions along the way. The study of heredity is called genetics. For all living organisms on the earth, their DNA is the molecule that carries information about heredity.
The History of Heredity
The word ‘heredity’ is derived from the Latin word ‘hereditatem’, which means “condition of being an heir”. Heredity is responsible not only for determining what physical characteristics you stand to inherit from your parents, but also what diseases and disorders you might be susceptible to, as a result. Until about two hundred years ago, the concept of heredity was not clearly defined. Through observations made in the fields of agriculture and medicine, however, scientists such as Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin were able to come to the conclusion that there was something that was being passed on from one generation to another, in the form of a similarity of characteristics. This proved to be the basis of the heredity definition in biology as we know it today.
Heredity and Inheritance Patterns
Heredity, notably the inheritance of genetic conditions from one generation to another, can usually be explained in terms of inheritance patterns, namely autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, X-linked dominant, X-linked recessive, codominant, and mitochondrial inheritance patterns. Heredity can be further classified into two kinds, namely sexual and asexual heredity. Sexually reproducing organisms receive half of their inheritance patterns, or genetic information, from either parent; this explains why offspring from sexually reproducing organisms are not identical replicas of their parents, but may resemble them closely. On the other hand, asexually reproducing organisms give all of the genetic information of a single parent by the process of mitosis, which is cell division. This, then, explains why asexually reproducing organisms are exact genetic replicas of their parent.
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Real-Life Applications of Heredity
A popular field of research involving heredity is to do with the study of entire populations. Scientists have studied large gene pools in order to arrive at an understanding of the genetic characteristics of that population group. This has led to some major discoveries about population genetics; for example, which population group can be susceptible to a particular kind of genetic disorder. Scientists, by studying heredity patterns over a period of time, have been able to conclude that people of European descent are more prone to cystic fibrosis, while Asians may be susceptible to other kinds of diseases. This has led to many advancements in medical care in these regions and redefined heredity’s definition in biology.
From its early, rather obscure heredity definition, biology has made numerous advances in the field of genetics and the study of heredity. Today heredity is a vital part of biology, studied by researchers the world over, and used in applications that will hopefully benefit mankind in time to come.
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