Animal behavioural genetics

Published on June 2, 2014   22 min

A selection of talks on Plant & Animal Sciences

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I'm really honored to be doing a Henry Stewart talk. My name is Temple Grandin. I am a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. And I'm going to be discussing some of the things that we discuss in our new book, Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals-- the Second Edition. Just came out really recently. One of the questions that people are always asking is, how much of animal behavior is nature-- in other words, genetics? And how much is nurture, which would be the environment.
There's an age-old question. How much of behavior is nature, and how much of behavior is nurture? And in our book, Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals, myself and many other scientists have chapters to answer that question. A lot has been learned about genetics in the last 10 years. And the mechanisms are complex. The old Mendelian genetics might only explain about 25% of inheritance. What a lot of people don't realize is that only 1% of the entire double helix actually codes for proteins. That's what's called the exome. What does the rest of the genome do? When I was in graduate school student back in the '80s, they used to call it junk DNA. I never believed in junk DNA. How could so much of the genome just be junk? We know now with the Encode Project that was just published in 2013, scientists have learned that a good part of that other so-called junk DNA probably is the genes' operating system. Something has to tell the coding DNA when to code for different things, otherwise you just have big cancerous blobs. Maybe there's some junk DNA. But there's some of that definitely has got to be the genes' operating system.