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Unit 9A

Inheritance and Selection

Name: ……………………………..

Year 9: …………
Unit 9A – Inheritance and Selection

What is variation?

Living things of the same type belong to the same species. For example, humans are one
species and dogs are another species. Two individuals belonging to different species cannot
normally reproduce together. If they do, their offspring is called a hybrid and it is usually
infertile and unable to reproduce.

Each individual has different characteristics that describe the way he looks like. Differences in
characteristics are called variation. Variation between different species is always greater than
the variation within a species.

1. Describe four of your characteristics.

2. A zorse is the result of mating what two animals?

3. Why is the zorse unable to reproduce?

Continuous and discontinuous variation

Continuous variation

A characteristic of any species with a range of values that changes gradually shows
continuous variation. Examples of such characteristics could include:

• height
• weight
• foot length.

Discontinuous variation

A characteristic of any species with only a limited number of categories shows discontinuous
variation. Here are some examples:

• gender (male or female)

• blood group (A, B, AB or O)
• eye colour.

Inherited and environmental causes of variation

Some variation within a species is inherited, and some variation is due to the environment.
Variation in a human characteristic, as a result of inheritance from the parents, is called
inherited variation. Here are some examples:

• gender
• eye colour, skin colour, hair colour
• lobed or lobeless ears
• rolling tongs
• right or left-handed
Variation in a feature as a result of a certain factor in the surroundings is called environmental
variation. Here are some other examples of features that show environmental variation:

• flower colour in hydrangeas - these plants produce blue flowers in acidic soil and pink
flowers in alkaline soil.
• Causes due to climate, accidents, diet, lifestyle, culture, …

* State whether the following characteristics are caused by genes, environmental factors or both:

Having blue eyes, having a scar, having naturally curly hair, being very tall, having a cold, being
able to speak French, having thin hair, having tanned skin…


Genes are sections of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) threads. These DNA threads make up
chromosomes. There are about 23000 different genes in every human cell nucleus.

Note: Changes in genes are called mutations. In Science fiction, mutation can cause “super
powers”. The “Incredible Hulk” got his strength due to a mutation caused by nuclear radiation.

Chromosomes are present in pairs (known as homologous pairs), both members have the same
length (and number of genes). One chromosome comes from the father and one chromosome
from the mother.

The diagram showing the 46 chromosomes in a human cell arranged in their homologous pairs.
A pair of the same type of chromosomes will have the same genes. However, the genes may be
slightly different. Different versions of the same gene are called alleles. For example, the alleles
for brown and blue eyes are found on chromosome 15. Scientists think this chromosome has
700-900 genes!
The last 2 chromosomes are called the sex chromosomes which determine the gender of an
individual. If there is an X and a Y then it's the cell from a male, if there are two X's then it's a
female. This cell therefore belongs to a male.

Some alleles always have an effect and some alleles do not always have an effect. For instance,
people who have the allele with the instruction “brown eyes” will have brown eyes even if the
other allele for eye colour has the instruction “blue eyes”. The “brown eyes” allele is dominant.
The “blue eyes” allele is recessive. For a recessive allele to have an effect, the alleles on both
the chromosomes must be recessive.

Diagram E shows the possible eye colours of children born to parents who have different eye
colours. We use letters to represent the alleles. Dominant alleles have a capital letter and
recessive alleles have a small version of the same letter. So, the “brown eyes” allele is B and the
“blue eyes” allele is “b”.

Sometimes alleles can cause genetic diseases. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that
damages the lungs and makes digesting food very difficult.

1. What is a genetic disease?

2. Look at diagram E.
a) What percentage of this couple’s children are likely to have brown eyes?
b) Redraw the diagram for a man with eye colour alleles Bb and a woman with alleles BB. What
percentage of this couple’s children would be likely to have brown eyes?
c) Redraw the diagram for a man and a woman who both have alleles Bb. What percentage of
this couple’s children are likely to have brown eyes?

3. Cystic fibrosis is caused by a recessive allele. Two parents are both carriers for the disease
and both have alleles Cc (C is the normal allele; c is the allele that causes the disease). What
percentage of children would they be likely to have with cystic fibrosis?


Sex cells (or gametes) are specialised to transfer genes from parents to offspring. The nuclei of
gametes only contain half the chromosomes of normal cells. In fertilisation one sperm cell enters
an ovum (egg cell). The two nuclei fuse to form a nucleus with a complete set of genes.

The fertilised egg cell contains genes from both parents, and so the offspring inherits
characteristics from both parents. Brothers and sisters look different because a person’s
gametes all contain a slightly different mix of their genes.

Each fertilised egg cell grows by cell division and forms an embryo. If cells in an early embryo
(zygote) split apart, identical twins are formed.

There are two types of cell division: Mitosis and Meiosis. Generally speaking, the cell division
concerned with genetics is Meiosis and this will take place in the sex organs. Mitosis takes place
in other areas and is concerned with growth, replacement of dead cells and repair of tissues.

Selective breeding

Selective breeding, also called artificial selection, involves people taking charge of selection
to produce new varieties of various species. Just as plants have different varieties, a species of
animal can have different breeds.

Different breeds of an animal may be mated with each other to produce offspring with
characteristics from both breeds. This is called cross-breeding.

Suppose you wanted a variety of cow that produced a lot of milk. This is what you could do:

• choose or select the cows in your herd that produce the most milk
• only let these cows reproduce
• select the offspring that produce the most milk
• only let these offspring reproduce
• keep repeating the process of selection and breeding until you achieve your goal.

The key here is to identify the feature you want, and only breed from the individuals that have
that feature. Here are some examples of what selective breeding can produce:

• hens that lay big eggs of a particular colour

• cattle that produce lots of meat
• tomato plants that produce lots of tomatoes
• crops that are resistant to certain plant diseases.

Asexual reproduction

Asexual reproduction only requires one parent, unlike sexual reproduction, which needs two.
Since there is only one parent, the offspring are genetically identical to that parent, and to each
other. They are clones.

Asexual reproduction in plants can take a number of forms. Many develop underground food
storage organs that later develop into the following year’s plants. Potato plants and daffodil
plants do this, for example.

Daffodil bulb

Some plants produce side branches with plantlets on them. Busy Lizzy does this. Others, such
as strawberry plants, produce runners with plantlets on them.

New plant developing from strawberry runner

Asexual reproduction in animals is less common than sexual reproduction. It happens in sea
anemones and starfish, for example.

Natural and artificial
Twins are genetically identical because they are formed after one fertilised egg cell splits into two
cells. They are natural clones. It is possible to make clones artificially. The cloning of animals has
many important commercial implications. It allows an individual animal with desirable features, such
as a cow that produces a lot of milk, to be duplicated several times.

Embryo transplants
A developing embryo is removed from a pregnant animal at an early stage, before its cells have had
time to become specialised. The cells are separated, grown for a while in a laboratory, and then
transplanted into host mothers.

When the offspring are born, they are identical to each other, and to the original pregnant animal.
They are not identical to their host mothers, because they contain different genetic information.

Fusion cell cloning

Fusion cell cloning involves replacing the nucleus of an unfertilised egg with one from a different
cell. The replacement can come from an embryo. If it is from an adult cell, it is called adult cell

'Dolly the sheep' was the first mammal to be cloned using adult cell cloning. She was born in the UK
in 1996, and died in 2003. Here is how she was produced:

1. An egg cell was removed from the ovary of an adult female sheep, and its nucleus removed.
2. The nucleus from an udder cell of a donor sheep was inserted into the empty egg cell.
3. The fused cell then began to develop normally, using genetic information from the donated
4. Before the dividing cells became specialised, the embryo was implanted into the uterus of a
foster mother sheep. The result was Dolly, who was genetically identical to the donor sheep.

Stem cells

During the development of an embryo, the cells become specialised. They cannot later change
to become a different type of cell. But stem cells can grow into any type of cell found in the body.
They are not specialised. Stem cells can be removed from human embryos that are a few days
old - for example, from unused embryos left over from fertility treatment.

Here are some of the things stem cells could be used for:
• making new brain cells to treat people with Parkinson’s disease
• rebuilding bones and cartilage
• repairing damaged immune systems
• making replacement heart valves.

You may wish to view this BBC News item from 2007 about a British research team that has,
for the first time, grown human heart valves from stem cells.

Therapeutic cloning

If you were to receive medical treatment with cells grown from stem cells, your body’s immune
system would recognise the cells as foreign, and they would be rejected and die. But this would
not happen if you received cells with the same genes as you. This could be done by cloning one
of your cells to produce an embryo, then taking stem cells from this. This is called therapeutic
cloning. Here are the steps involved:

GM Animals

The “spidergoats” produce spider silk in their milk. They have been genetically modified.
Scientists took the spider silk gene from a golden orb weaver spider and managed to put it into
the DNA of a goat. This goat was then cloned. The goats are milked and the spider silk is used
to make “BioSteel” – a material that is much lighter and stronger than steel.

Spiderman gained his powers when bitten by a radioactive spider, which caused genetic
modification. ”Spidergoats” however, can’t swing from buildings.

* Design your own genetically modified superhero.

GM Plants

Scientists have created genetically modified (GM) sweet corn that kills insects that normally eat
it, GM tomatoes that last a long time and GM rice that contains lots of vitamin A. Some people
think that growing and eating GM plants could be dangerous because GM plants have genes
that they do not naturally contain.

Carrots used to be white or purple. They are orange today because a sixteenth century Dutch
plant breeder selectively bred carrots from plants with a mutation that made them orange – the
colour of the Dutch Royal family.

List one benefit and one drawback of using:

a) selective breeding b) genetic modification c) cloning


* How many chromosomes are there in a human sex cell? ________________________


A type of eye disease can be inherited.

The following diagram shows part of a family tree. Those people circled have the disease.
Use the diagram to answer the questions that follow.

a) Why does Tom not have the disease?


b) Why does Kate have the disease?


c) One of Emma’s grandfathers had the disease. Explain which of her grandfathers this was more
likely to be (Anne’s father or David’s father).


Q 4 Complete the diagram to show how sex cells are made.


Q 6 Complete with the correct answer.

The nucleus of a cell has 23 pairs of thread-like structures called ____________________.

Small sections of these are called ____________. For a new life to begin, a nucleus of a
_____________ from a man must join with a nucleus of an _________cell from a woman.
This is called _________________________.




Q 10

Q 11

Q 12

Q 13

* Use the books or the Internet to find what breeders might look for when breeding plants.

Q 14

Q 15

The sentences are about how plant breeders move pollen from one plant to another.
Put them in the correct order.

Use a paint brush to transfer pollen from the chosen plant to the mature stigma. ________
Wait for the stigma to mature. _________
Remove the anthers before they burst and release their pollen. _________
Cover the flower with a pollen-proof bag. ________