Biology for Kids
What is genetics?
Genetics is the study of genes and heredity. It studies how living organisms, including people, inherit traits from their parents. Genetics is generally considered part of the science of biology. Scientists who study genetics are called geneticists.
Gregor Mendel is considered
the father of genetics
Photo by William Bateson
What are genes?
Genes are the basic units of heredity. They consist of DNA and are part of a larger structure called the chromosome. Genes carry information that determine what characteristics are inherited from an organism's parents. They determine traits such as the color of your hair, how tall you are, and the color of your eyes.
What are chromosomes?
Chromosomes are tiny structures inside cells made from DNA and protein. The information inside chromosomes acts like a recipe that tells cells how to function. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46 chromosomes in each cell. Other plants and animals have different numbers of chromosomes. For example, a garden pea as 14 chromosomes and an elephant has 56.
What is DNA?
The actual instructions inside the chromosome is stored in a long molecule called DNA. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
Gregor Mendel is considered the father of the science of genetics. Mendel was a scientist during the 1800s who studied inheritance by experimenting with pea plants in his garden. Through his experiments he was able to show patterns of inheritance and prove that traits were inherited from the parents.
Interesting Facts about Genetics
- Two humans typically share around 99.9% of the same genetic material. It's the 0.1% of the material that makes them different.
- The structure of the DNA molecule was discovered by the scientists Francis Crick and James Watson.
- Humans share about 90% of genetic material with mice and 98% with chimpanzees.
- Nearly every cell in the human body contains a complete copy of the human genome.
- We get 23 chromosomes from our mother and 23 from our father.
- Some diseases are inherited through genes.
- Doctors may be able to cure diseases in the future by replacing bad DNA with good DNA using a process called gene therapy.
- DNA is a really long molecule and there are lots of DNA molecules in the human body. If you unraveled all the DNA molecules in your body, they would reach to the Sun and back several times.
- Some inherited traits are determined by multiple different genes.
- DNA molecules have a specific shape called a double helix.
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