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The Biology of Pumpkins!


Where have you experienced biology today?

It’s October, so that means pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

We visited a pumpkin patch last weekend – it’s amazing how many different kinds of pumpkins there are to choose from – white, orange, yellow, lumpy, green, stripey. Pumpkins for eating, for carving, for decorating. The owner of the patch we visited boasted 25+ varieties of pumpkins for sale.

That variety comes from only five domesticated species of plants – all generically called ‘winter squash’ – or pumpkins.

Why the variety? Comes back to genetics. Plants, like animals, have genes too. And winter squash has many gene variants. This makes it possible to selectively breeding pumpkins to get the variances in color, texture, and size.

So the next time you look at the diversity of pumpkins decorating houses this year – remember, what you see (the phenotype) is reflecting the genes (genotype) underneath.

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