5: Dragon Genetics - Biology

5: Dragon Genetics - Biology

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This activity explores the relationship between genotype and phenotype, using both sex-linked and autosomal dominant and recessive traits. By manipulating alleles (genotype), you create corresponding changes in the dragon's physical appearance (phenotype). There are two activities for students to explore with visualizations. Additionally, this kit includes two teacher guides for additional resources and feedback on the setup and delivery of this curriculum.

  • 5.1: Dragon Genetics Protocol (Part 1)
    In this activity, you will study the patterns of inheritance of multiple genes in (imaginary) dragons. These dragons have two pairs of homologous chromosomes in each cell. You will see that since genes are carried on chromosomes, the patterns of inheritance are determined by the behavior of chromosomes during meiosis and fertilization.
  • 5.2: Dragon Genetics Protocol (Part 2)
    In this activity, you and a partner will work together to produce a baby dragon. You will simulate meiosis and fertilization, the biological processes by which the parents' genes are passed on to a baby. To begin, we will review meiosis and fertilization for dragons that have only one chromosome with a single gene.
  • 5.3: Dragon Genetics Teacher's Preparation Notes
    In this simulation, activity students mimic the processes of meiosis and fertilization to investigate the inheritance of multiple genes and then use their understanding of concepts such as dominant/recessive alleles, incomplete dominance, and epistasis to interpret the results of the simulation. After the introduction of classical genetics, this activity can be used as a culminating activity or serve as a formative assessment to identify any areas of confusion that require further clarification.

Also, the Concord Consortium has a dynamic simulation regarding this experiment that expands the content—Geniverse is free, web-based software for high school biology that engages students in exploring heredity and genetics by breeding and studying virtual dragons. Interactive models, powered by real genes, enable students to do simulated experiments, generate realistic and meaningful genetic data and win star ratings for efficient experimentation. Students can sign up for 4 weeks free or play as a guest.

Genome of the Komodo dragon reveals adaptations in the cardiovascular and chemosensory systems of monitor lizards

Monitor lizards are unique among ectothermic reptiles in that they have high aerobic capacity and distinctive cardiovascular physiology resembling that of endothermic mammals. Here, we sequence the genome of the Komodo dragon Varanus komodoensis, the largest extant monitor lizard, and generate a high-resolution de novo chromosome-assigned genome assembly for V. komodoensis using a hybrid approach of long-range sequencing and single-molecule optical mapping. Comparing the genome of V. komodoensis with those of related species, we find evidence of positive selection in pathways related to energy metabolism, cardiovascular homoeostasis, and haemostasis. We also show species-specific expansions of a chemoreceptor gene family related to pheromone and kairomone sensing in V. komodoensis and other lizard lineages. Together, these evolutionary signatures of adaptation reveal the genetic underpinnings of the unique Komodo dragon sensory and cardiovascular systems, and suggest that selective pressure altered haemostasis genes to help Komodo dragons evade the anticoagulant effects of their own saliva. The Komodo dragon genome is an important resource for understanding the biology of monitor lizards and reptiles worldwide.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have no competing interests to declare


Figure 1.. Estimated species phylogeny of 15…

Figure 1.. Estimated species phylogeny of 15 non-avian reptile species, 3 avian species, and 4…

Figure 2.. Type 2 vomeronasal receptors have…

Figure 2.. Type 2 vomeronasal receptors have expanded in Komodo dragons and several other squamate…

Figure 3.. Gene clusters of Type 2…

Figure 3.. Gene clusters of Type 2 vomeronasal receptors evolved through gene duplication.

Figure 4.. Positive selection of mitochondrial genes…

Figure 4.. Positive selection of mitochondrial genes in the Komodo dragon.

Bearded dragon embryos become females either through sex chromosomes or hot temperatures

Native to the arid landscapes of Australia, the centra bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) is a fascinating species. It has genetic sex determination, but when incubated at high temperatures, genetic males sex reverse and develop as females. Credit: Whiteley SL et al., 2021, PLOS Genetics

Bearded dragon embryos can use two different sets of genes to become a female lizard—one activated by the sex chromosomes and the other activated by high temperatures during development. Sarah Whiteley and Arthur Georges of the University of Canberra report these new findings April 15th in the journal PLOS Genetics.

In many reptiles and fish, the sex of a developing embryo depends on the temperature of the surrounding environment. This phenomenon, called temperature-dependent sex determination, was discovered in the 1960s, but the molecular details of how it happens have eluded scientists despite half a century of intensive research. Researchers investigated the biochemical pathways required to make a female in the new study by studying this phenomenon in bearded dragons. Male bearded dragons have ZZ sex chromosomes, while females have ZW sex chromosomes. However, hot temperatures can override ZZ sex chromosomes, causing a male lizard to develop as a female.

Whiteley and Georges compared which genes were turned on during development in bearded dragons with ZW chromosomes compared to ZZ animals exposed to high temperatures. They discovered that initially, different sets of developmental genes are active in the two types of females, but that ultimately the pathways converge to produce ovaries. The findings support recent research proposing that ancient signaling processes inside the cell help translate high temperatures into a sex reversal.

The new study is the first to show that there are two ways to produce an ovary in the bearded dragon and bringing us closer to understanding how temperature determines sex. The study also identifies several candidate genes potentially involved in temperature-dependent sex determination. These findings lay the foundation for future experiments to tease out each gene's role in sensing temperature and directing sexual development.

Whiteley adds, ""The most exciting component of this work is the discovery that the mechanism involves ubiquitous and highly conserved cellular processes, signaling pathways and epigenetic processes of chromatin modification. This new knowledge is bringing us closer to understanding how temperature determines sex, so it is a very exciting time to be in biology."


Biology majors of our University typically take the systematics class in their junior year, by which time they have already taken general biology classes and comparative anatomy classes, in both of which evolution and systematics are discussed. We performed this activity in the third laboratory session, after we had already discussed in past sessions the basic principles of taxonomy, classification, and nomenclature, and the principles of modern (Hennigian) systematics. I used Caminalcules to illustrate these concepts we first performed the methodology described here with Camin's creations.

I had my students read the first chapter of Draconomicon, a Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook written by Andy Collins, Skip Williams, and James Wyatt and published by Wizards of the Coast in 2003. The sections that are most pertinent to the activities are those on The Dragon's Body (pages 5–9) and Dragons by Kind (pages 36–56). Images are available and are generally useful. The other sections of the chapter may be of some use but are not necessary. The first section, The Dragon's Body, details the typical anatomical features of dragons as broken down into organ systems. The second, Dragons by Kind, covers the variations in dragon form across the ten different operational taxonomic units (OTUs) or “species” of dragon, five each of the chromatic and the metallic. It is in this section that students can find the characters and character states for their classification. However, the specific breath weapons exhaled by these dragons are not listed in these sections, and are instead found in the individual dragon entries in the Monster Manual publication by the Wizards RPG Team (2014) they are provided in Table 1 below for convenience.

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5: Dragon Genetics - Biology

The Basic of Genetics

Tour of the Basics: Are you a little confused by all the talk about DNA and genes? Try our animated tour!

DNA from the Beginning

An animated primer on the basics of DNA, genes, and heredity. It is organized around key concepts. The science behind each concept is explained by: animation, image gallery, video interviews, problem, biographies, and links.

Animations by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

From DNA to Protein

Build a DNA molecule: You've heard about the DNA code letters AGCT, but how do they comprise a DNA molecule? Find out by building one yourself.

Transcribe and Translate a Gene: See how cells "read" the information in a DNA sequence to build a protein, then build one yourself!

Discover How Proteins Function: Find out how scientists investigate protein function by analyzing gene sequences.

Beyond Genetics

Molecular Genealogy: Find out how people are using DNA to learn about their ancestry.

What Makes a Firefly Glow? An animated example of transcription and translation.

Conservation Genetics: Using genetics to save endangered species.

Genes and Blood Type: The role of genes in blood, blood types, and blood transfusions.

Genes Determine Body Patterns: How and why certain genes control how an arm becomes an arm and leg becomes a leg.

Mystery of the Stolen Artifacts: Examine DNA evidence to solve a mystery.

Bringing RNA Into View: Explore RNA's roles as an information molecule and biological catalyst. This unit contains an online introduction and detailed PDF monograph.

Genetics of Development Animations

Cyclopamine: The normal Hedgehog signaling pathway is blocked by the receptor antagonist cyclopamine. Hedgehog Gradient: The level of Hedgehog protein a cell binds during development can influence its fate. Hedgehog Signaling: The Hedgehog signaling pathway triggers expression of other developmentally important genes. Homeobox: The color-shaded regions represent homeotic genes called Hox genes. The dark band within each gene represents a 180-base-pair region called the homeodomain. Homeodomain: A 3-D model of a protein with a homeodomain, a èhelix-turn-helixî motif that acts as a transcription factor by binding directly to DNA to turn on other genes. Retinoic Acid: A retinoic acid gradient controls the activation of many developmentally important genes. Disruptions in the embryoçs retinoic acid levels can lead to malformation of the embryo. Spatial and Temporal Colinearity: Hox genes display spatial colinearity Ê genes at one end of the chromosome are expressed at the head end of an embryo while genes at the other end are expressed toward the tail end. Vertebrate Hox genes also show temporal colinearity Ê genes at the head end are expressed before those at the tail end.

Genetically Modified Organisms Animations

Creation of a Transgenic Animal: The steps involved using nuclear transfer to create a transgenic goat that produces a human protein in its milk. Creation of Golden Rice: A diagrammatic representation of the enzymatic pathway constructed to produce beta carotene in the endosperm of a rice plant. Recombinant DNA: The steps involved in genetically modifying a plant.

How Tiny Machines Switch On Genes
Travel deep into a cell's nucleus and watch how tiny machines decode a gene.

Animation by The Rockefeller University

Silence Of The Genes
Travel inside DNA's protective packaging, chromatin.

Animation by The Rockefeller University

  • Genetics Tutorials RM Chute
  • Java Genetics zeroBio
  • Independent Assortment Sumanas
  • Genetics Animations California State University, Chico
  • Genetics Animations by Tokyo Medical University
  • Karyotype Activities Genetic Science Learning Center
  • Animated Karotyping University of Glasgow Monmouth University
  • What is Inheritance? Genetic Science Learning Center
  • Genetics of Development Annenberg/CPB

This activity explores the relationship between genotype and phenotype, using both sex-linked and autosomal dominant and recessive traits. By manipulating alleles (genotype), you create corresponding changes in the dragon's physical appearance (phenotype).

Mendel's Peas

Parts 1 and 2 (top menus, left to right) demonstrate basic principles of meiosis, fertilization, and inheritance using the same pea traits that Mendel studied. We suggest you start at the beginning to brush up on the basics. But if you just can't wait to play the game, skip ahead to Part 3, The Princess and the Wrinkled Peas.

Understanding Genetic Disorders

What Are Genetic Disorders? Learn more about specific disorders in the Genetic Disorders Library.

What Can Our Chromosomes Tell Us? Scientists can predict certain genetic disorders by looking at a person's chromosomes. Find out how this is done and try it yourself.

Test Neurofibromin Activity in a Cell! Predict and test the effects of NF1 mutations.

Finding A Gene On The Chromosome Map: See how scientists look for disorder-related genes.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade: Explore the methods for delivering genes into cells.

Your Genes Your Health

What is Gene Therapy?

What is Gene Therapy? The what and why of gene therapy research.

Choosing Targets for Gene Therapy

Choosing Targets for Gene Therapy: See how researchers decide which disorders are appropriate for gene therapy.

From Research To Trials

From Research To Trials: How long does it take? Follow a gene therapy treatment from the lab to the clinic.

Challenges in Gene Therapy

Challenges in Gene Therapy: Why isn't gene therapy a smashing success?

Dragon Genetics

It's alive! Turn young biologists into mad scientists with this engaging genetics activity. Using their knowledge of chromosomes and genes, students create dragons with unique sets of traits, eventually breeding them to make a new generation of baby dragons.

Additional Tags
Instructional Ideas
  • Include this as a culminating project for a biology unit on genetics
  • Use these worksheets to create a packet to pass out to each student
  • Have students color their dragons and create posters to display their work
Classroom Considerations
  • Assumes students have prior knowledge about genes, chromosomes, and sexual reproduction
  • This resource is only available on an unencrypted HTTP website. It should be fine for general use, but don’t use it to share any personally identifiable information
  • Worksheets are sequentially designed to walk students through the process of creating the genetic code for their own unique dragons
  • Includes printable templates of body parts that allow students to physically create their dragons
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What is Genetics?

Genetics is a science, a branch of biology, studying the basic patterns of heredity and variability in living organisms.

Heredity ensures that the similarities and differences between organisms in the generations are preserved. Variability ensures changes in some characteristics, as a result of the genetic information or changes in the environment. From these two properties of living organisms depends the adaptation to various environmental conditions and improvement in the way of evolution.

The name of genetics originates from the Greek word “genea”, which means “origin”. The main concepts in genetics are the gene, genotype, and phenotype. The man begins to apply his knowledge of genetics in ancient history in the cultivation and reproduction of plants and animals. In modern research, genetics provides important tools for studying the functions of individual genes, analysis of genetic interactions, etc. In organisms, genetic information is primarily found in chromosomes in the form of DNA sequences.

The main task of genetics is to study the laws of heredity and variability, which features are inherited, the material carrier of heredity, the causes of variability, etc.

Genetics uses diverse research methods:

  • Hybrid (genetic) analysis
  • Genealogical method
  • Cytogenetical method
  • Populational method
  • Biochemical method
  • Physiological method
  • Mutation method
  • Biometric (mathematical) method, etc.

Genetics is of great importance for both theory and practice. The significance of genetics is in:

  • Clarification of the role of supramolecular complexes for heredity
  • Isolation of individual genes
  • Synthesis of “laboratory” genes
  • Clarification of the mechanisms of gene action
  • Development of methods in the selection
  • Development of the modern medicine, etc.

The main divisions of genetics are:

  • Hybrid analysis
  • Cytogenetics
  • Mutational genetics
  • Genetics of individual development
  • Oncogenetics
  • Molecular genetics, etc.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. DRL-0733264, DRL-1513086, and DRL-1503311. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Watch the video: Dragon Genetics 1st 4 pages (November 2022).