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An allele is one of a series of different forms of a gene. The word is a short form of allelomorph ('other form'), which was used in the early days of genetics to describe variant forms of a gene detected as different phenotypes. Alleles are now understood to be alternative DNA sequences at the same physical gene locus, which may or may not result in different phenotypic traits. In any particular diploid organism, with two copies of each chromosome, the genotype for each gene comprises the pair of alleles present at that locus, which are the same in homozygotes and different in heterozygotes. A population or species of organisms typically includes multiple alleles at each locus among various individuals. Allelic variation at a locus is measurable as the number of alleles (polymorphism) present, or the proportion of heterozygotes (heterozygosity) in the population.
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