Cats as an aid to teaching genetics

Alan C. Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


I have used an exercise involving domestic cats in the General Genetics course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for the past 5 years. Using a coherent set of traits in an organism familiar to the students makes it easy to illustrate principles of transmission and population genetics. The one- semester course consists primarily of sophomores and juniors who have either taken a one-semester introductory biology course, a one-semester cell biology course, or have a strong high school biology background. The students are given a handout and asked to determine the genotype at seven unlinked loci of at least one cat. To fill out the form, the students have to grasp such concepts as dominance, incomplete dominance, temperature-sensitive mutations, epistatic interactions, sex linkage, and variable expressivity. Completing the form reinforces these concepts as they observe the cat's phenotype and fill in the genotype. I then analyze the collected data and use it in my lectures on population genetics to illustrate the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, calculate allele frequencies, and use statistics. Tiffs allows the students to look at population genetics in a very positive light and provides concrete examples of some often misunderstood principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1004
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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