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The vast diversity of form and function in the plant kingdom was a major puzzle for 19th-century botanists, and continues to be important for modern day geneticists. Variation is observed in all species, and offspring have a unique combination of the characteristics inherited from their parents. Since Darwin, biologists have studied the way that the characteristics are passed on. In 1866, Gregor Mendel published work on patterns of inheritance in pea plants. He bred many generations of plants and noted the ratios of inherited characteristics. This new and very scientific approach generated patterns in the ratios which no-one had seen before. Unfortunately, at the time his work was not understood and its importance was not appreciated.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
21 June 2011

Classroom Ideas

Introduce the ideas of inheritance of characteristics and lead into a discussion of the characteristics which Mendel studied and the ratios he established. Students could do similar breeding experiments with tomatoes or rapid cycling brassicas. Other interesting activities include observation of variety in humans, apples, roses, fish or other organisms.