Acquired and Inherited Traits

Table of Contents


Acquired traits are the ones that a person develops during his lifetime. These are not passed from one generation to another. On the other hand, inherited traits are present in a person since the time of his birth and are passed on from one generation to another.

Acquired Traits

An acquired trait is the character developed in an individual as a result of environmental influence. These traits are not coded by the DNA of a living organism and therefore cannot be passed on to future generations.

Darwin, Lamarck and Acquired Traits

Lamarck initially hypothesized that the acquired traits can be passed on from parents to their offspring making the organism more suitable for the environment. But later on, Darwin removed this hypothesis from his publication – Theory of Evolution, once he had enough evidence to prove that the acquired traits are not passed on from one generation to another.

E.g. an offspring born to a bodybuilder need not necessarily have extremely large muscles. This is because the muscles were acquired by the bodybuilder during his lifetime.

Inherited Traits

These are the traits that are inherited from the parents to the offspring. Hair, skin, eye colour, body type, height, and susceptibility to certain diseases are some of the examples of inherited traits in humans. The inherited traits of an individual are determined by their genes.

A single cell in the human body contains 25,000 to 35,000 genes. These genes carry the traits inherited by an individual from his parents.

Gregor Mendel explained the concept of inherited traits in his experiments with the pea plant. He depicted that the traits that are visible in the phenotype are called the dominant traits, while the traits that are not visible are known as the recessive traits.

Mendel explained the inherited traits by the following laws of inheritance:

  1. Law of Dominance: When two alternative forms of character are present in an individual, only one form expresses itself in the F1 progeny and is called the dominant trait, while the form that does not express itself is called the recessive trait.
  2. Law of Segregation: Law of segregation is the second law of inheritance. This law explains that the pair of alleles segregate from each other during meiosis cell division (gamete formation) so that only one allele will be present in each gamete.
  3. Law of Independent Assortment: According to the law of independent assortment, the alleles of two more genes get sorted into gametes independent of each other. The allele received for one gene does not influence the allele received for another gene.

This was an overview of the acquired and inherited traits. Visit BYJU’S to explore more about traits or other related topics.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


Why are acquired traits not inherited?

Acquired traits are characters produced by the influence of the environment. These traits are changed on a phenotype level but not on a genotype level. Since these changes are not present in the genes, they can not be passed from one generation to the next.

Related Links

Sex Determination
Human Evolution
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