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Biology LibreTexts

13.0: Prelude to Modern Understandings of Inheritance

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.

Figure 13.0.1: 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)


  • Connie Rye (East Mississippi Community College), Robert Wise (University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh), Vladimir Jurukovski (Suffolk County Community College), Jean DeSaix (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Jung Choi (Georgia Institute of Technology), Yael Avissar (Rhode Island College) among other contributing authors. The OpenStax College name, OpenStax College logo, OpenStax College book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the creative commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University. For questions regarding this license, please contact Download for free at