Since the domestication of plants and animals, farmers and herders have been selectively breeding organisms to increase the prevalence of some traits and decrease others. Humans select the organisms to breed based on their physical characteristics and repeating the process over many generations results in a more bountiful harvest, strong animals, desirable color patterns etc.
As the controller of a beetle nest in Beetle Uprising you can try your hand at selectively breeding your own super bugs. Complete missions of conquest and welcome new beetles with superior genetic traits into your hive. Breed parents with the best traits together and create stronger, faster, more ferocious beetles. Or perhaps you are more interested in how your beetles look. Try and breed that purple, spotted, iridescent beetle that stands out from the more mundane beetles.
Our earliest understanding of the laws behind heredity comes from the work of mid nineteenth century monk Gregor Mendel, he spent eight years breeding and studying more than 25,000 plants. Mendel noticed that his plants’ traits were controlled by pairs of what he called factors. Parents randomly passed along one factor for each trait to their offspring. An organism with different forms of a trait expresses the form that is dominant. The recessive form is still there and has an equal chance of being passed along during breeding. Mendel published his work in 1866 but it would be many years before the actual mechanisms of heredity were understood.
The blueprint for building an organism is carried in the organism’s DNA. This molecular code is organized in long strands of DNA called chromosomes. Chromosomes come in pairs, one copy from the mother and one from the father. For example humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for 46 total chromosomes, 23 from each parent. Chromosome numbers vary widely. Dogs have 78 chromosomes while domestic cats only have 38. The beetles in your hive have 14 pairs of chromosomes. When you breed two beetles together each parent will randomly pass along one chromosome from each pair. You will see nine randomly generated possible offspring results after a breeding. Pick the offspring that combines the traits you are selectively breeding for.
The basic unit of heredity is the gene. A gene determines or influences a particular trait in an organism. Each gene is made up of a stretch of DNA on a particular chromosome. Since chromosomes come in pairs there are two copies of each gene in an organism. Alternate forms of a gene are called alleles. For example Mendel studied the gene for seed color in peas. He looked at two different alleles, one resulted in yellow seeds, the other green seeds. Organisms have two copies of each gene, and Mendel noticed if the two alleles were different (one green seed allele and one yellow seed allele) the seeds were yellow. He described this as the yellow allele being dominant over the recessive green allele. Some of your beetles traits are controlled in this simple Mendelian genetics fashion. For example stripe orientation is controlled by a single gene with two possible alleles, longitudinal stripes, the dominant gene and transverse stripes the recessive gene.
Many characteristics have more complex genetics. There are usually more than two possible forms of allele. For example in human blood typing even though each person only has two copies of the gene there are three possible alleles, A, B and O. Most traits found in your beetles have more than one possible allele form. For example the gene for eye size has a total of seven different alleles including alleles that grow or shrink the beetle’s eye.
Many physical characteristics that exist in a wide continuum are influenced by more than just one gene and are termed polygenic. For example height in humans is controlled by a large number of genes that act in a cumulative fashion. Traits such as Quickness are polygenic in your beetles. There are ten different genes that work together to determine Quickness. Every beetle has two copies of each of these genes and there are six possible alleles for this gene for a possible range of 1 to 100 for the trait Quickness. Breeding for superior polygenic traits can be tricky. These traits are cumulative so a medium level strength can be the result of lots of medium strength alleles or the result of a few high strength alleles and a few low strength alleles. You can use the genetic visualizer on the Beetle Inspector screen to inspect the stats alleles for a Beetle, or you can hold the <ctrl> key on the Breeding screen to compare parent and offspring stats alleles.
Your beetles follow the same hereditary laws found in all organisms. The game design and programming team worked closely with biologists and researched genetics and hereditary patterns while designing and programming the beetle’s genome. You can find examples of simple Mendelian genetics, incomplete dominance, codominance, multiple alleles, polygenic traits and epistasis in your beetles genes. Have fun with your selective breeding project! Remember, choosing the best parents and then selecting the right offspring will breed a superior beetle that can survive the toughest battles, succeed at difficult tasks and lead your swarm to victory!