What are model organisms?
- Model organisms are non-human species that are used in the laboratory to help scientists understand biological processes.
- They are usually organisms that are easy to maintain and breed in a laboratory setting.
- For example, they may have particularly robust embryos that are easily studied and manipulated in the lab, this is useful for scientists studying development.
- Or they may occupy a pivotal position in the evolutionary tree, this is useful for scientists studying evolution.
Why are model organisms useful in genetics research?
- Many model organisms can breed in large numbers.
- Some have a very short generation time, which is the time between being born and being able to reproduce, so several generations can be followed at once
- Mutants allow scientists to study certain characteristics or diseases. These are model organisms that have undergone a change or mutation in their DNA that may result in a change in a certain characteristic.
- Some model organisms have similar genes or similar-sized genomes to humans.
- Model organisms can be used to create highly detailed genetic maps:
- Genetic maps are a visual representation of the location of different genes on a chromosome, a bit like a real map but one where the key landmarks are areas of interest in the genome.
- For example, areas of DNA that differ between individuals in the same species (SNPs) or genes.
Examples of model organisms used to study genetics
- Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)
- Fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster)
- Nematode worm (Caenorhabditis elegans)
- Western clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis)
- Mouse (Mus musculus)
- Zebrafish (Danio rerio)
This page was last updated on 2021-07-21
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