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Evolution of the Gene

Nature volume 162, page 136 (24 July 1948) | Download Citation



PROF. A. H. STURTEVANT discusses one of the most pressing problems of biology in a recent issue of the American Scientist (34, 225 ; 1948). It has been a mystery how new heritable material for the production of new characters originates. When Harland, as the result of his work on cotton, concluded that homology of parts in related species is not correlated with the homology of genes which produce them, another reason Was given for disbelief in the value of homology for biological analysis. Sturtevant challenges this view and points out that the polyploid nature of cotton permits the differentiation of two sets of genes in the amphidiploids after their creation. Hence, in one species, one set of genes may control some characters, leaving the other free for differentiation. In a different species the reverse takes place. Sturtevant compares the characters in different species of Drosophila and suggests that two organs are homologous if they are conditioned by homologous genes. This implies degrees of homology, since genes may vary from being identical (being allelomorphic mutants), partly homologous to non-homologous. Homology therefore becomes relational and amenable to mathematical treatment rather than absolute.

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