What is a Gene Pool? - Definition & Example

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  • 0:00 What Is a Gene Pool?
  • 0:20 An Example
  • 1:10 Phenotype vs. Genotype
  • 1:56 Can the Gene Pool Change?
  • 2:40 How Many Gene Pools Are There?
  • 3:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Skwarecki
Your genes + everybody else's genes = the human gene pool. Learn about gene pools large and small, including how they can change and why they're more than meets the eye!

What is a Gene Pool?

A gene pool is a collection of all the genes in a population. This can be any population - frogs in a pond, trees in a forest, or people in a town. A gene pool isn't a real place; it's an abstract idea or an imaginary collection. Let's look at an example to get a better understanding.

An Example

Imagine you wake up one morning after a zombie apocalypse. There are only 100 people still alive on Earth - and none of the survivors have freckles. Is it possible that the gene for freckles is completely gone from the human gene pool?

For any gene, including the one for freckles, each person has two copies - one inherited from Mom and one from Dad. We call the gene a locus, because it has a certain location on one of our long strands of DNA. There can be multiple alleles, or different forms of the same gene, possible at a locus. In our example, the freckle locus has an allele for 'yes freckles' and another for 'no freckles'.

In our example, the gene pool contains 200 genes at the freckle locus. Maybe you're right, and all 200 have the 'no freckles' allele. But then again...

Phenotype vs. Genotype

We can't tell which genes are in the gene pool if all we're looking at is people's outward appearance, or phenotype. Instead, we need to examine their genotype, or genetic makeup.

If you visibly have no freckles, you could have two 'no freckles' alleles. Or, since the gene for freckles is recessive, meaning it's only expressed if you inherit it from both parents, you could have one 'yes freckles' gene and one 'no freckles' gene. In this case, you'd be a genetic carrier, or a person who's inherited a recessive allele for a trait that he or she doesn't display.

If everybody in the post-apocalyptic world was a freckles carrier, the gene pool would have 100 genes for 'yes freckles' and 100 genes for 'no freckles.' But we can't tell that just by looking.

Can the Gene Pool Change?

If people mate randomly, and there's no advantage or disadvantage to particular genes, then the gene pool will likely stay the same over time. Genes can be shuffled around differently in each generation (you might end up with some people who have two 'yes freckles' genes), but each allele's frequency, or how often it occurs in relation to other alleles of the same gene, would still be 50%.

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