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Model organisms

Last updated 7 months ago

A model organism is a non-human species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena. The expectation is that discoveries made in the model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms. Some people think of model organism research as an approach particularly appropriate for fields aiming to help humans (molecular biology, neuroscience). However, model organisms are also used in other fields of biology such as ecology or behavior, where scientists can learn a great deal from easily studied species and it is not as practical to study all species.

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This description, as with many of the annotations below, is modified or copied from the Wikipedia article on Model Organisms: Model organism. (2011, August 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:27, August 21, 2011, from

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    Aplysia's ink release response serves as a model in neurobiology. Its growth cones serve as a model of cytoskeletal rearrangements.

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    Arabidopsis thaliana

    Thale Cress

    Arabidopsis is currently the most popular model plant. Its small stature and short generation time facilitates rapid genetic studies, and many phenotypic and biochemical mutants have been mapped. Arabidopsis was the first plant to have its genome sequenced.

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    Bacillus subtilis

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    Caenorhabditis elegans


    C. elegans is an excellent model for understanding the genetic control of development and physiology. It was the first multicellular organism whose genome was completely sequenced

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    Danio rerio


    The zebrafish has a nearly transparent body during early development, which provides unique visual access to the animal's internal anatomy. Zebrafish are used to study development, toxicology and toxicopathology, specific gene function and roles of signaling pathways.

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    Drosophila melanogaster

    Common Fruit Fly

    The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is studied because it is easy to grow for an animal, has various visible, heritable traits, and has a giant chromosome in its salivary glands that can be examined under a light microscope.

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    Escherichia coli

    E. Coli

    This common gut bacterium is the most widely-used organism in molecular genetics.

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    Gallus gallus

    Red Junglefowl

    Chicken embryos are widely used model organisms in developmental biology.

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    Mus musculus

    House Mouse

    The laboratory mouse is the classic model vertebrate. Many inbred strains exist, as well as lines selected for particular traits, often of medical interest, e.g. body size, obesity, muscularity.

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    Rattus norvegicus

    Brown Rat

    The lab rat is particularly useful as model organisms for toxicology. It is also particularly useful as a neurological model and source of primary cell cultures, owing to the larger size of organs and suborganellar structures relative to the mouse

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    Saccharomyces cerevisiae

    Baker's Yeast, Brewer's Yeast

    Baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is used as a model organism for genetic analysis.

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    Spodoptera frugiperda

    Fall Armyworm

    Spodoptera frugiperda cells (Sf9 and Sf21 cell lines) are commonly used in biomedical research for the purpose of recombinant protein expression using insect-specific viruses called baculoviruses.

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    Takifugu rubripes


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    Xenopus laevis

    African Clawed Frog

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    Zonotrichia leucophrys

    White-crowned Sparrow

    This sparrow is a commonly studied by those interested in vocal learning and song dialects in birds.