Gregor Mendel is famous for his studies of heredity in pea plants, but he actually began his experiments with mice. After breeding mice in his rooms at the monastery, Mendel had to switch to plants because the bishop disapproved of a study having to do with animal sex.
Students can recreate what Mendel’s mice experiments might have looked like with the Mouse Genetics (One Trait) Gizmo. In this Gizmo, students begin with two homozygous mice, one with alleles for black fur and another with alleles for white fur. After breading these mice together, the resulting F1 generation will be uniformly heterozygous. Additional breeding pairs formed from this generation bear offspring with genes that follow Mendelian distributions. Punnett squares are introduced as a tool to explain results from the Gizmo in the Student Exploration Guide.
Mendel may have had more difficulty determining the laws of genetics if he had studied mice developed at the University of Nice. In 2006, a research group led by Minoo Rassoulzadegan discovered mice in which traits were passed down in ways that did not follow Mendel’s laws. In this case, the traits appeared to be carried by gene-modifying RNA that is present in the sperm of the parent mice.
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