1. Bacterial Genetics


When you hear the word “clone,” what do you think of? Maybe Dolly the sheep, or experiments carried out in molecular biology labs. But it’s also true that the bacteria around you—on your skin, in your gut, growing on your kitchen sink—are “cloning” themselves all the time!Bacteria reproduce by splitting in two via binary fission. Binary fission makes clones, or genetically identical copies, of the parent bacterium. Since the “child” bacteria are genetically identical to the parent, binary fission doesn’t provide an opportunity for genetic recombination or genetic diversity (aside from the occasional random mutation).

This contrasts with sexual reproduction.Still, genetic variation is key to the survival of a species, allowing groups to adapt to changes in their environment by natural selection. That’s true for bacteria as well as plants and animals. So it’s not too surprising that prokaryotes can share genes by three other mechanisms: conjugation, transformation, and transduction.

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