Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
A Zebra Finch male. (Taeniopygia guttata). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Craaford Prize spotlights genetics

For their work in the 1960s establishing the uniqueness of genetic makeups, two researchers will be awarded the Craaford Prize in biosciences by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Richard Lewontin of Harvard University and Tomoko Ohta of the National Institute of Genetics in Japan will be given the award at a ceremony in May attended by the Swedish king and queen.

In a press release on its website the Academy of Sciences motivated their decision by saying that the uniqueness of genetic makeups was "a startling contradiction to the prevailing theories when it was discovered in the 1960s."

Lewontin's research showed that genetic variation between individuals in a group was many times greater than what had been previously been thought. An individual's genes are as distinct as fingerprints, the press release says.

Ohta used these new understandings to reassess theories about natural selection and found a far more complex picture, rife with pointless mutations.

Over a number of decades the geneticists continued to make contributions to the understanding genetic variation, the press release states.

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