Acquired And Inherited Traits

Mar 17, 2023, 16:45 IST

The population grows with each passing generation. Seeing every person daily often makes us wonder how or why we are different. Let us imagine ourselves as a book. Each book has different colors, sizes, titles, etc. Similarly, humans have different body features, appearances, characteristics, and personalities. All of these indicate diversity due to acquired and inherited traits in us. Traits are defined as observed, discernible characteristics of living organisms. In this article, we will learn more about both types of traits in detail.

Acquired and Inherited Traits

What are Acquired Traits?

These are traits that are acquired by an organism after birth. It’s done either through outside influences or by an organism's activities that alter its structure or function and cannot be inherited.

While genetic differences may cause variances between two people, the development of a unique trait inside a person depends entirely on their decision and environment.

Similarly, if genetic and environmental variables cause all features, reconstructing an inherent/acquired feature in genetic terms will result in distinct gene divisions.

  • Research on Acquired Traits

French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed a theory in his Philosophie Zoologique in 1809. It says that traits that organisms require are acquired over an organism's life and passed to their offspring.

Although Lamarck is considered the founder of the Inheritance of Acquired traits, this theory was proposed by Hippocrates and Aristotle in antiquity. The ideas about evolution that involved this concept were proposed by Comte de Buffon, who preceded Lamarck.

However, the later discovery of inherited genes supported Darwin's theory, and Lamarcka's ideas fell by the wayside. The findings suggested that Lamarck, whose evolutionary theories were overshadowed by Darwins, were not completely wrong but were inaccurate.

  • Acquired Trait Examples

To help you better understand the concept, we have shortlisted some common examples that can be found in our day-to-day life.

  • Learning a specific language
  • Excellent cooking skills
  • Developing resistance to a certain type of pain.
  • Being good at a sports activity(i.e., swimming, running, etc.).
  • Poor eyesight
  • Weight-gain

What are Inherited Traits?

An inheritable characteristic is a trait or feature of an organism that has been handed down through its genes(father+mother). Also known as biological inheritance or heredity, it is the transmission of qualities from parents to their offspring.

It results from progeny cells or organisms absorbing genetic information from their parents through sexual reproduction. However, the parental transmission of qualities is only guaranteed in some cases.

Go through the explanation below to understand the difference between acquired and inherited traits.

  • Understanding Inherited Traits

The key gap between inherited and acquired genes is that acquired traits can develop over time and are not handed on to the following generation. In contrast, inherited traits are derived from the previous generation and passed on to the following generation through reproduction. Since acquired qualities are not in the genes, they cannot be passed down from generation to generation.

Each of the parents has two different types of genes, each of them passing down just one copy to you. As a result, changes in the gene structure are done in your body. If both parents can influence one attribute in their offspring, they will pass on one copy of the same gene.

Since the father and mother cannot control choosing what traits will be transferred, estimating traits in advance becomes almost impossible.

For instance, medical geneticists might find a pattern of disorder inheritance within a family, leading them to speculate that a single gene (or set of genes) is responsible for developing those traits in a person.

  • Gregor Mendel’s Thoughts on Inherited Traits

Gregor Mendel proposed that genes controlling traits are present in organisms reproducing sexually. Through his pea-plant breeding experiments, Gregor Mendel established three principles of inheritance, which described the transmission of genetic traits even before genes were discovered.

While some traits are controlled by genes passed down from parents to their descendants, some traits are developed by observation and learning. Much of this is determined by a combination of environmental factors and genes.

Mendel used the following inheritance laws to explain hereditary traits:

  • Law of Dominance - When two distinct character traits are present in a person, only one of them manifests in the F1 offspring and is referred to as the dominant trait; the other is referred to as the recessive trait.
  • Law of Segregation - The second law of inheritance is the law of segregation. According to this law, a pair of chromosomes separate from one another during meiosis cell division (gamete creation), resulting in a single chromosome being present in each gamete.
  • Law of Independent Assortment - As per this law, the genotypes of two additional genes are sorted into gametes independently of one another. Receiving one genotype for one gene does not affect receiving another genotype for a different gene.

However, the studies of plants and other genetic compositions in the environment may vary systematically. This theory had more proof than Lamarck’s, which turned it into the preferred source of research guidance in this field.

  • Inherited Trait Examples

Below are some examples you can find in your body or simply look around for a better comparison of how inherited traits work.

  • A particular face shape(oval, round, square, etc.)
  • Different skin tones from around the globe(dark, brown, white, etc.).
  • Mastering a specific skill related to your own parents(drawing, dancing).
  • Similar hair color and shape as your parents
  • Genetic diseases are passed down from generation to generation.
  • Certain body shape
  • Allergies
  • Dimples

Acquired Traits vs Inherited Traits Comparison

Acquired Traits Inherited Traits
These traits are unique to the individual and are not passed on to succeeding generations. These traits can be passed on from one generation to the next.
It may evolve over the course of a person's lifetime. A person's ability to develop can begin from infancy.
It's somatic variation, so it can't benefit evolution. It is the result of genetic differences and direct evolution.
These characteristics are not inherited and must be developed via learning and observation. These genetically transmitted qualities are inherited.


The cellular DNA contains information that is used to generate proteins within the cell. A DNA strand that encodes a protein is defined as a gene. These genes affect how traits are expressed. Darwin discovered that acquired traits could not be connected to inheritance, contrary to Lamarck's theory. Mendel used the rules of dominance, segregation, and independent assortment to describe how inherited traits are governed by the laws of inheritance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Which traits are more commonly passed down in humans?

Ans. Inherited traits are found more commonly in human beings. With the ability to get passed down along with the DNA, inherited traits are more likely to be seen when we compare both trait types in people. On the contrary, the number of acquired traits can vary from person to person.

Q2. Is it possible to lose acquired traits during a lifetime?

Ans. Acquired traits are gained after birth through an outside impact or an organism's activities. Thus, it is possible that a living organism can lose it due to certain reasons and activities. An acquired trait like muscle mass is the best example, but a person is bound to lose muscle mass without regular exercise.

Q3. Can we genetically combine the acquired traits with inherited ones?

Ans. No, acquired and inherited traits can not be combined on a genetic level. The sole reason behind this limitation is that inherited traits are transferred directly, while acquired traits depend on the actions of any individual. Hence, it is not possible to program custom traits genetically in humans.

Q4. On what basis are inherited traits passed down?

Ans. There are no set rules for determining which characteristics a person will inherit, although one can anticipate inheriting the same traits as their parents. Due to this reason, we often share our parents' talents, whether it is drawing, dancing, or other such pursuits.

Q5. Who is the father of traits in biology?

Ans. Multiple popular studies are present in the history of genetics. But Gregor Mendel’s research done in the 19th century is the most promising among others. Due to his unmatched efforts in this field, he’s known as the father of traits in biology.

Q6. Which traits are better for human beings?

Ans. Both traits carry their importance in building a person’s overall character. Either way, we can not be sure what traits a person will receive as an inheritance. Thus, it is not possible to generalize the quality of acquired and inherited traits of someone without a dedicated personality analysis.

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