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CourseSource articles linked to the GSA Genetics Learning Framework cross-posted here with permission    


Why Meiosis Matters: The case of the fatherless snake




Robin L. Wright



A compelling reason to learn something can make all the difference in students’ motivation to learn it.  Motivation, in turn, is one of the key attitudes that drives learning.  This story presents students with a compelling puzzle of a fatherless snake.  The puzzle motivates students to learn about meiosis and mitosis, since the only way to explain the origin of the fatherless baby is by mastering details of meiosis.  During the process, students work through the major steps in meiosis, compare and contrast mitosis and meiosis, and apply their understanding to predict how meiosis “went wrong” to produce an unusual offspring that did not originate through union of an egg and a sperm.  This story can be adapted for introductory or advanced students and can be scaled from a brief introduction in a single lecture to a series of active learning exercises that could take two or more lecture periods.


Genetics Concept(s) Addressed:

Transmission/ patterns of inheritance: How can one deduce information about genes, alleles, and gene functions from analysis of genetic crosses and patterns of inheritance?

Transmission/ patterns of inheritance: What are the mechanisms by which an organism’s genome is passed on to the next generation?


Core Competencies Addressed:

Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses.



Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors and non-majors

Activity Type:

Lecture and small group discussion

Activity Length:


75 minutes; can be completed over multiple class periods




Wright, R. 2014. Why Meiosis Matters: The case of the fatherless snake. CourceSource. 00:xxx. doi:00.0000/journal.cs.000000

Article in CourseSource