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Neurospora crassa is a red mold that scientists use to study genetics. N. crassa commonly grows on bread as shown in the top left corner of this figure. To culture the mold in lab, researchers grow it in glassware such as test tubes, Erlenmeyer flasks, and petri dishes, as shown in the top right corner of the figure. In the glassware, researchers place a gel, called a medium, of agar, sucrose, salts, and vitamins. The mold grows on the medium, and cotton stoppers prevent anything from contaminating the mold.
In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, experimented on sea-squirts (Ciona intestinalis). Kammerer claimed that results from his experiments demonstrated that organisms could transmit characteristics that they had acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments on sea-squirts and other organisms at a time when Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution lacked evidence to explain how offspring inherited traits from their parents.
When cells-but not DNA-from two or more genetically distinct individuals combine to form a new individual, the result is called a chimera. Though chimeras occasionally occur in nature, scientists have produced chimeras in a laboratory setting since the 1960s. During the creation of a chimera, the DNA molecules do not exchange genetic material (recombine), unlike in sexual reproduction or in hybrid organisms, which result from genetic material exchanged between two different species. A chimera instead contains discrete cell populations with two unique sets of parental genes.