The gene is the physical unit of inheritance, and genes are arranged in a linear order on chromosomes. The behaviors and interactions of chromosomes during meiosis explain, at a cellular level, the patterns of inheritance that we observe in populations. Genetic disorders involving alterations in chromosome number or structure may have dramatic effects and can prevent a fertilized egg from developing altogether.
Thumbnail: Chromosomes are threadlike nuclear structures consisting of DNA and proteins that serve as the repositories for genetic information. The chromosomes depicted here were isolated from a fruit fly’s salivary gland, stained with dye, and visualized under a microscope. Akin to miniature bar codes, chromosomes absorb different dyes to produce characteristic banding patterns, which allows for their routine identification. (credit: modification of work by “LPLT”/Wikimedia Commons; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)