Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Demonstrating Independent Assortment of Chromosomes, Square Dance Style

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Demonstrating Independent Assortment of Chromosomes, Square Dance Style

Article excerpt

One of the processes that ultimately provides for new combinations of alleles in sexually-reproducing organisms is the independent assortment of chromosomes during meiosis 1. As with so many concepts, pictures are worth more than words, but living models can be leveraged to even greater effectiveness. An easy way to model the process of independent assortment is to have students act as chromosomes. Chinnici et al. (2004) presented a detailed role-playing simulation that follows the processes of both mitosis and meiosis, and is certainly valuable for more complete explorations of those topics. The present demonstration is very quick (five minutes or less), and is designed specifically to show the principle of independent assortment. By having students switch positions across an equatorial plane, the class can better understand the random partitioning of homologues.

Using three pairs of students, there are eight potential arrangements (23 combinations) of chromosomes at the metaphase plate. Three male students and three female students are asked to volunteer to serve as paternal and maternal members of three homologous pairs. Initially, all of the males are on one side of the equator (an arbitrary line on the floor--tile rows work well), and all of the females are on the other. The first pair switches places, providing the second potential arrangement. The second pair then switches, etc., until all possible combinations are established. If you have the talent, actually using square dance calls would spice up the presentation with a little humor.

Adding a fourth pair of chromosomes would double the number of combinations, and could serve to further instill a sense of complexity. …

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