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Identifying the Genomic Basis of Biological Variation: What Is a Genome?

By Diane P. Genereux

What Is a Genome?

To move from understanding that offspring can inherit phenotypes from parents to understanding the physical nature of that inheritance, it is necessary to consider the genome sequence—that is, the specific information encoded in the DNA of an organism. For teachers seeking a treatment even more accessible than the one provided by Judson in The Eighth Day of Creation (mentioned above), an overview of the discovery of DNA that will be accessible to high school students and the general public is available at the National Library of Medicine’s website: The Discovery of the Double Helix, 1951–1953. The National Institutes of Health also provides an overview through its web-based “Fact Sheets,” especially The Cost of Sequencing a Human Genome. For more advanced students, Noor Youssef, Aidan Budd, and Joseph Bielawski offer a broad overview of genomes as both physical and informational entities, with attention to key features that vary among taxa ranging from viruses to mammals, in their chapter contributed to Evolutionary Genomics: Statistical and Computational Methods, edited by Maria Anisimova.

Works Cited