Millions of species of animals, plants and microbes inhabit our planet. Genomics, the study of all the genes in an organism, is providing new insights into this amazing diversity of life on Earth. We begin with the fundamentals of DNA, genes and genomes. We then explore microbial diversity, with an emphasis on how genomics can reveal many aspects of organisms, from their ancient history to their physiological and ecological habits. We follow with examinations of animal and plant diversity, focusing on domesticated species, such as dogs and tomatoes, as examples of how genomic methods can be used to identify genes that underlie new or otherwise interesting traits. Genomics has also transformed the study of human diversity and human disease. We examine the use of DNA to trace human ancestry, as well as the use of genomics as a diagnostic tool in medicine. With the powerful new technologies to study genomes has come an increased power to manipulate them. We conclude by considering the societal implications of this ability to alter the genomes of crop plants, livestock and potentially humans.
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Rob DeSalle and Michael Yudell, Welcome to the Genome: A User’s Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
For those students wanting an extra resource for learning about the basics of DNA, RNA and other aspects of molecular biology, I recommend this book:
Rene F. Kratz, Molecular & Cell Biology for Dummies (Wiley, Inc., 2009).
DNA Interactive (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2003).