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Biology LibreTexts

12.1D: Garden Pea Characteristics Revealed the Basics of Heredity

  • Page ID
    13259
  • Mendel’s experiments with peas revealed the presence of dominant and recessive traits in the filial generations.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Evaluate the results of F1 and F2 generations from Mendelian crosses of peas

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Dominant traits are inherited unchanged from one generation to the next.
    • Recessive traits disappear in the first filial generation, but reappear in the second filial generation at a ratio of 3:1, dominant:recessive.
    • In the F1 generation, Mendel found that one of the two options for each trait had disappeared (all offspring were identical phenotypes), while in the F2 generation, the trait reappeared in 1/4 of the offspring (a 3:1 ratio).

    Key Terms

    • hybrid: offspring resulting from cross-breeding different entities, e.g. two different species or two purebred parent strains
    • recessive: able to be covered up by a dominant trait
    • dominant: a relationship between alleles of a gene, in which one allele masks the expression (phenotype) of another allele at the same locus

    Garden Pea Characteristics Revealed the Basics of Heredity

    To fully examine each of the seven traits in garden peas, Mendel generated large numbers of F1 and F2 plants, reporting results from 19,959 F2 plants alone. His findings were consistent.

    What results did Mendel find in his crosses for flower color? First, Mendel confirmed that he had plants that bred true for white or violet flower color. Regardless of how many generations Mendel examined, all self-crossed offspring of parents with white flowers had white flowers, and all self-crossed offspring of parents with violet flowers had violet flowers. In addition, Mendel confirmed that, other than flower color, the pea plants were physically identical.

    Once these validations were complete, Mendel applied the pollen from a plant with violet flowers to the stigma of a plant with white flowers. After gathering and sowing the seeds that resulted from this cross, Mendel found that 100 percent of the F1hybrid generation had violet flowers. Conventional wisdom at that time would have predicted the hybrid flowers to be pale violet or for hybrid plants to have equal numbers of white and violet flowers. In other words, the contrasting parental traits were expected to blend in the offspring. Instead, Mendel’s results demonstrated that the white flower trait in the F1 generation had completely disappeared.

    Importantly, Mendel did not stop his experimentation there. He allowed the F1 plants to self-fertilize and found that, of F2-generation plants, 705 had violet flowers and 224 had white flowers. This was a ratio of 3.15 violet flowers per one white flower, or approximately 3:1. When Mendel transferred pollen from a plant with violet flowers to the stigma of a plant with white flowers and vice versa, he obtained about the same ratio regardless of which parent, male or female, contributed which trait. This is called a reciprocal cross: a paired cross in which the respective traits of the male and female in one cross become the respective traits of the female and male in the other cross. For the other six characteristics Mendel examined, the F1 and F2generations behaved in the same way as they had for flower color. One of the two traits would disappear completely from the F1 generation only to reappear in the F2 generation at a ratio of approximately 3:1.

    Upon compiling his results for many thousands of plants, Mendel concluded that the characteristics could be divided into expressed and latent traits. He called these, respectively, dominant and recessive traits. Dominant traits are those that are inherited unchanged in a hybridization. Recessive traits become latent, or disappear, in the offspring of a hybridization. The recessive trait does, however, reappear in the progeny of the hybrid offspring. An example of a dominant trait is the violet-flower trait. For this same characteristic (flower color), white-colored flowers are a recessive trait. The fact that the recessive trait reappeared in the F2 generation meant that the traits remained separate (not blended) in the plants of the F1 generation. Mendel also proposed that plants possessed two copies of the trait for the flower-color characteristic and that each parent transmitted one of its two copies to its offspring, where they came together. Moreover, the physical observation of a dominant trait could mean that the genetic composition of the organism included two dominant versions of the characteristic or that it included one dominant and one recessive version. Conversely, the observation of a recessive trait meant that the organism lacked any dominant versions of this characteristic.

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    Results of Mendel’s Garden Pea Hybridizations: Mendel conducted thousands of experiments and found the same ratios of offspring every time, regardless of which trait he examined.