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Artificial Selection

Background Genes: All the alleles of genes within each organisms genotype which adapt it for a
specific environment.
Progeny Testing: Observing the traits shown by the female offspring of a male organism to find out
if that male should be selectively bred (this is useful in the case of sex-limited traits).
- Throughout history, humans have been trying to improve various organisms such as cattle and
crop plants.
- Humans select for desirable traits such as:
Cow: high-fat milk yield, high milk (or other) yield, docility, fast growth rates.
Dog: Docility, fast growth rate, increased intelligence.
Wheat: rich in gluten (good for bread flour), less gluten (pastry), resistance to fungal diseases
like dead blight caused by Fusarium (increases yield), climate resilience, efficient use of
nitrogen fertiliser, shorter stems, good growth in nutrient-poor soils.
- This is done by selective breeding. This is done by:
1. Selecting the individuals with the desired trait and breeding them.
2. Choosing the offspring with the best, most desirable traits and breeding them.
3. Repeating this for many generations until the allele for the desirable traits increase
and the unfavourable alleles decrease in frequency or are completely eliminated.
- Selective breeding presents farmers with several problems:
1. The organisms may be big
2. The organisms take time to mature
3. Gestation periods may be long
4. There may be very few offspring per organism.
5. The traits desired may be sex-limited and progeny testing may have to be carried out.
(e.g. testing bulls for milk yield trait).
6. Parents from different environments may have many different background alleles
(which adapt them to their own environments), making the organism less well-adapted
to the environment.
- Artificial selection has been happening for a very long time, but more recently, genetic
technology has started being used to add or change genes in a species to change its
- The purpose of the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network:
To support the development of new varieties by screening seed collection s for plants with
traits such as disease resistance, climate resilience, and efficient use of nitrogen fertilisers.
Any plant with good traits is grown in large numbers and passed onto commercial breeders.
- Short wheat has been selected for because with shorter stems they are easier to harvest and
have greater yields because they put more energy into making seeds than growing tall. It also
prevents them from being knocked flat by heavy ranges and that they produce less straw (less to
dispose of).
These dwarf varieties of wheat have two Rht (reduced eight genes). These code for more
DELLA proteins (transcription inhibitors) which reduce the effect of gibberellins on growth.
An allele for a different gene, called Tom Thumb, causes the plant not to have receptors for
- Rice is selected for on the basis of being resistant to diseases such as bacterial blight (bacterial),
spots, rice blast (caused by Magnaporthe) and smuts (fungal).
Also, Golden rice contains high levels of vitamin A.