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Genetics can be extremely complex and confusing. With all the new morphs and the upcoming designer morph possibilities, a basic understanding of genetics and how it relates to breeding is essential. First there needs to be a basic understanding of some of the terms that are used in genetics.

  • DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid. The molecule whose structure forms the genetic code.
  • Chromosome – Each cell in every living thing has a nucleus. Much of the nucleus is made up of a constant number of paired chromosomes. Each chromosome is a single, long strand of DNA in a protein matrix. The strand of DNA contains many genes.
  • Gene – the units of DNA that are transmitted from one generation to the next in the sperm and egg cells. Each gene codes for a specific enzyme. Each enzyme catalyses one step in the biochemical pathway that determines an individual’s phenotype.
  • Allele – one of two or more alternative forms a gene may take. A homozygous wild type allele, together with wild type alleles at all other loci, produces a normal individual. A changed, or mutant, allele at one locus can block or divert a biochemical pathway to produce a phenotype that is different from the normal.
  • Locus (plural = loci) – the location on a chromosome where a specific gene resides. Think of it as a street address.
  • Genotype – the genetic make up of a plant or animal. The identity of an allele or alleles that a single individual has at one or more specified loci.
  • Phenotype – the physical appearance of the animal as dictated by the genes it has inherited and the influences of the environment.
  • Heterozygous – having two different alleles at a given locus.
  • Homozygous – having two identical alleles at a given locus.
  • Wild type – normal. The phenotype most commonly seen in wild caught individuals. The allele at each locus that produces the wild type phenotype.
  • Recessive – a mutant allele that changes the phenotype only when in the homozygous. When heterozygous, the individual looks normal.
  • Codominant – a mutant allele that changes the phenotype when either homozygous or heterozygous. A heterozygous individual does not look like a homozygous individual, and neither does it look like a normal.
  • Dominant – a mutant allele that changes the phenotype when either homozygous or heterozygous. A heterozygous individual looks like a homozygous individual.
  • Double Heterozygous – heterozygous at two gene loci.
  • Triple Heterozygous – heterozygous at three gene loci.
  • P generation – two unlike individuals that begin a genetics experiment, or breeding program.
  • F1 generation – first filial generation. The offspring of the P generation. An F1 is a single member of the F1 generation.
  • F2 generation – second filial generation. The offspring of two F1s.
  • F3 generation – third filial generation. The offspring of two F2s.
  • Punnett Square – a learning tool for determining the possible outcomes of a given cross between individuals. It was developed by R.C. Punnett, an early British geneticist.