Johnston, Mark Department of Genetics, Washington University Medical Center, School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
Last reviewed:April 2019
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The science of biological inheritance. Genetics is responsible for the resemblances and differences among related organisms and individuals. As such, it occupies a central position in biology, for essentially the same principles apply to all animals and plants. Moreover, understanding of inheritance (see illustration) is basic for the study of evolution and for the improvement of cultivated plants and domestic animals. Genetics also may be defined as the science that deals with the nature and behavior of genes, which are the fundamental hereditary units. From this point of view, evolution is seen as the study of changes in the gene composition of populations, whereas embryology is the study of the effects of genes on the development of an organism. In general, genetics has much to contribute to the study of developmental biology, biochemistry, pathology, anthropology, and other subjects. See also: Animal evolution; Anthropology; Biochemistry; Developmental biology; Embryology; Evolution; Macroevolution; Pathology; Physical anthropology; Plant evolution; Population genetics
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