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Journal of Applied Genetics 50(3), 2009, pp. 177-184

Darwin's contributions to genetics

Y-S. Liu, X-M. Zhou, M-X. Zhi, X-J. Li, Q-L. Wang

Abstract: Darwin's contributions to evolutionary biology are well known, but his contributions to genetics are much less known. His main contribution was the collection of a tremendous amount of genetic data, and an attempt to provide a theoretical framework for its interpretation. Darwin clearly described almost all genetic phenomena of fundamental importance, such as prepotency (Mendelian inheritance), bud variation (mutation), heterosis, reversion (atavism), graft hybridization (Michurinian inheritance), sex-limited inheritance, the direct action of the male element on the female (xenia and telegony), the effect of use and disuse, the inheritance of acquired characters (Lamarckian inheritance), and many other observations pertaining to variation, heredity and development. To explain all these observations, Darwin formulated a developmental theory of heredity - Pangenesis - which not only greatly influenced many subsequent theories, but also is supported by recent evidence

Key words: Darwin, genetics, Pangenesis, variation and heredity, breeding.

Correspondence: Y. Liu, Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H7, Canada; e-mail:

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