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Good day, I'm Trudy MacKay,
a professor in the Department of Genetics
at North Carolina State University.
I'm interested in the genetic basis
of variation for complex traits.
In this talk I will explain
what I mean by complex traits,
why these traits are important,
the challenges involved in dissecting
the genetic underpinnings of these traits,
and how studies in the model genetic
organism Drosophila melanogaster have
advanced our knowledge in this field.
When I speak of a trait, I mean any
aspect of an organism's phenotype that
can be measured or quantified such
as height, weight, blood pressure or
behavioral responses to
an environmental or social cue.
There is great diversity, or variation
in phenotypes of these traits among
individuals, as illustrated by these
photos of different dog breeds.
Understanding what causes phenotypic
variation for these traits is important
from the perspective of plant and
animal breeding and evolution, for
genetic variation in these traits is the
substrate for adaptive evolution, and for
a response to human selection for improved
yield of domestic crop and animal species.
Understanding what causes variation for
complex traits is also important
from the standpoint of human health,
because there's considerable variation in
human populations in susceptibility to
such as heart disease and diabetes.
Conversely, there is also considerable
variation in health span,
ranging from disabling physical and
or/mental impairment in old age
to retaining full functional
capability even at advanced age,
as illustrated by the photos of
centenarians in the right panel.