Difference Between Acquired and Inherited Traits

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Charles Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck were both pioneering evolutionary scientists but they had different ideas about exactly how organisms could change over time. In this lesson find out more about Darwin's and Lamarck 's ideas!

What Is Evolution?

Have you ever seen a giraffe sticking out its long neck to touch some leaves on a tall branch of the tree and asking how long its neck was? Most people believed many years ago that traits, like the long neck of the giraffe, just existed and didn't change with time. 

Inherited and Acquired Traits 

The traits acquired are the ones a person develops during his lifetime. Those aren't passed from generation to generation. On the other hand, hereditary characteristics have been present in the individual since his birth and are passed on from one generation to the next.

Acquired Traits

The character developed in an individual as a consequence of environmental influence is an acquired trait. These characteristics are not coded in a living organism's DNA, and can not, therefore, be passed onto future generations.

Acquired Characteristics 

Inherited Trait

Acquired Trait

Characteristic features that are inherited from the previous generation

Traits or characteristics which develop in response to the environment and cannot be inherited

Occur due to a change in genes or DNA

No change in genes or DNA is involved

Pass on from one generation to another

Cannot pass on from one generation to another

E.g. Red curly hair, Brown eyes

E.g. Cycling, Swimming


Acquired and Inherited traits

  • Acquired traits

    • Traits acquired by organisms during their lifetime

    • Not passed from one generation to another


  • Inherited traits

    • Traits controlled by genes

    • Passed on from one generation to the next


Purchased Traits

1. Somatics is variable. 

2. Acquired features developed due to the effects of environmental factors, the use and disguise of organs, and special (conscious) efforts. 

3. Throughout an individual's lifetime, these features develop, and that individual's with death. 

4. Example: learning dance, music, and so on, and the muscular body of a wrestler.


Inherited Traits

1. Those are variations in genetics. 

2. Inherited features evolve due to genetic material rearrangement and mutation. 

3. The parents transfer those traits (inherited) to their offspring. These aren't dying but passed on to the next generation. 

4. Example: earlobe attached or free, and curly hair.

Darwin, Lamarck and Acquired Traits

Initially, Lamarck hypothesized that the acquired traits could be transmitted from parents to offspring, thus making the organism more environmentally appropriate. Darwin later removed this hypothesis from his publication – Theory of Evolution, once he had sufficient evidence to prove that the traits acquired are not passed from one generation to the next. 

For example, a bodybuilder-born offspring does not necessarily need to have extremely large muscles. This is because the bodybuilder had developed the muscles during his lifetime.

Inherited Traits

These are the traits that are inherited from parents to offspring. Hair, skin, the color of the eyes, a form of the body, height, and susceptibility to other diseases are some of the examples of human inherited traits. An individual's inherited characteristics are determined by his/her genes. 

In a human body, one single cell contains 25,000 to 35,000 genes. These genes carry the traits that an individual has inherited from his parents. 

In his studies with the pea plant, Gregor Mendel clarified the idea of inherited traits. He depicted that the traits visible in the phenotype are called the dominant traits, while the non-visible traits are known as recessive traits.

Mendel clarified the inherited characteristics by the following inheritance laws:

1. Law of Dominance: When there are two alternative types of character in an adult, only one form expresses itself in the offspring of F1 and is called the dominant trait, while the form which does not express itself is called the recessive trait.

2. Segregation law: The alleles show no mixing and are recovered as such in the F2 generation, although one of them is not seen in the F1 generation. 

3. Law of Independent Assortment: When two pairs of traits are recombined, the segregation of one pair of characters during gamete formation is independent of the other pairs of characters. 

Difference between Lamarckism and Neo–Lamarckism



(1) It is an original theory by Lamarck.

(1) It refers to the modification of the original theory of Lamarck in order to make it more appropriate for modern knowledge.

(2) The theory places emphasis on internal force, appetite, and the use and disuse of organs.

(2) Neo-Lamarckism does not attach any significance to these factors.

(3) It believes that changes in the environment cause an animal to react consciously.

(3)The theory emphasizes the direct effect of a changing climate on species.

(4) According to Lamarckism, the developed characters are passed onto the next generation..

(4) Normally, only those changes are transferred to the next generation that influence the germ cells or where the somatic cells give rise to the germ cells.


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Explain Inherited and Acquired traits.

Purchased Traits: 

1. They are variable somatics. 

2. Acquired characteristics developed due to the effects of environmental factors, organ use and disguise, and special (conscious) efforts. 

3. These characteristics develop throughout an individual's lifetime, and that individual's with death. 

4. Example: dance, music, etc., and a muscular body wrestler. 


Inherited Character: 

1. These are the hereditary variations. 

2. Inherited traits develop due to the reshuffling of genetic material and mutations. 

3. These features are transferred (inherited) by the parents to their offspring. They don't die, but they're passed on to the next generation. 

4. Example: free or attached earlobe and curly hair.

2. Differentiate between Inherited and Acquired Traits.

1. The trait acquired can not be passed on to the progeny whereas the traits inherited may be. 

2. Acquired traits do not result in changes in the DNA of the germ cell but in somatic cells when genes with inherited traits are found in the germ cell DNA. 

3. Acquired traits are acquired during the individual's lifetime, while hereditary traits are inherited from parents.

4. Acquired, for example; knowledge inherited, e.g.; eye color, hair color.