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Model organisms

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A model organism is a species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological and psychological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms. This is possible because fundamental biological principles such as metabolic, regulatory, and developmental pathways, and the genes that code for them, are conserved through evolution.

Often, model organisms are chosen on the basis that they are amenable to experimental manipulation. This usually will include characteristics such as; short life-cycle, techniques for genetic manipulation (inbred strains, stem cell lines, and transfection systems), and non-specialist living requirements. Sometimes, the genome arrangement facilitates the sequencing of the model organism's genome, for example, by being very compact or having a low proportion of junk DNA.

When researchers look for an organism to use in their studies, they look for several traits. Common among these are size, generation time, accessibility, manipulation, genetics, conservation of mechanisms, and potential economic benefit. As comparative molecular biology has become more common, some researchers have sought model organisms that represent assorted lineages of life.

Important model organisms in psychology

  • Cavius porcellus, the guinea pig, used by Robert Koch and other early bacteriologists as a host for bacterial infections, hence a byword for "laboratory animal" even though rarely used today.
  • Rat (Rattus norvegicus) - particularly useful as a toxicology model; 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. (Molecular evolution, Genomics)
  • Mouse (Mus musculus) - 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. (Quantitative genetics, Molecular evolution, Genomics)
  • Zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio), a freshwater fish, has a nearly transparent body which provides unique visual access to the animal's internal anatomy throughout its life. Zebrafish are used to study development, toxicology and toxicopathology[3], specific gene function and roles of signaling pathways.
  • Xenopus laevis, the African clawed toad, also used in development because of its large cells, esp. egg cells.
  • Takifugu rubipres, a pufferfish - has a small genome with little junk DNA
  • Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) - an important respiratory and cardiovascular model
  • Chimpanzee
  • Oryzias latipes, Medaka (the Japanese ricefish) is an important model in developmental biology, and has the advantage of being much sturdier than the traditional Zebrafish.

Model organisms used for specific research objectives

Sexual selection and sexual conflict

Hybrid zones


  1. Riddle, Donald L.; Blumenthal, Thomas; Meyer, Barbara J.; and Priess, James R. (Eds.). (1997). C. ELEGANS II. Woodbury, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Press. ISBN 0-87969-532-3. Full text available on-line.
  2. Manev H, Dimitrijevic N, Dzitoyeva S. (2003). Techniques: fruit flies as models for neuropharmacological research.. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 24 (1): 41-43.
  3. Spitsbergen J.M. and Kent M.L. (2003). The state of the art of the zebrafish model for toxicology and toxicologic pathology research--advantages and current limitations. Toxicol Pathol. 31 (Supplement), 62-87. PubMed Abstract Link => PMID 12597434.

See also

External links

Major Model Organisms in Psychology studies (Please edit)
Monkey | Dog | | Rat | Mouse
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