Restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) are genetic markers based on cloned molecules of DNA. Using RFLPs, scientists can construct high density genetic linkage maps and locate economically important genes. Once a gene for a valuable trait has been mapped with RFLPs, desirable genotypes can be selected using RFLPs rather than scoring for the trait itself. This is important when a trait is recessive, difficult to score, or obscured by other characters. RFLPs are particularly valuable in mapping genes controlling complex polygenic characters, including those fundamental to crop improvement. The first RFLP maps were developed in crop species primarily important in temperate countries. Now RFLP maps for major tropical and sub-tropical crop species are also being developed.