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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.

Examples of Acquired trait :

  • When a person learns to ride a bike, it is an acquired trait.

  • Reading books, developing skills etc are examples of Acquired traits.

  • Acquired behavior traits are commonly seen in tasks such as playing musical instruments, training dogs (teaching him tricks).

  • Acquired behavior traits can also be seen when a student studies.

  • Scars are also an example of acquired physical traits.

  • Hormonal changes during puberty are also examples of acquired traits which cannot be passed to the future generation.

  • Muscles developed after bodybuilding and working out are examples of acquired traits.

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

1) Traits acquired by organisms during their lifetime

2) Not passed from one generation to another

  • Inherited Traits

1) Traits controlled by genes.

2) Passed on from one generation to the next.

Purchased Traits

  • Somatics is variable.

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

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

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

Inherited Traits

  • Those are variations in genetics.

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

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

  • 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.

Examples of inherited traits :

  • Curly hairs, Dimples and other physical features are commonly seen as inherited traits. These traits are passed to further generations. Also, these acquired traits are in control of the human being.

  • Inheritance can also be responsible for Green/Red Color Blindness. If a person is suffering from color blindness, chances arise that the child will also suffer from the same.

  • Eye color, skin tone, Blood group etc. are also inherited from a parent to the child.

  • In some cases, height is also an inherited trait. But, according to some studies, height should not be considered an inherited trait. This is because height is a combination of more than 700 genes in the human body. Therefore, it is not appropriate to consider height as inherited on the basis of just one gene.

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



It is an original theory by Lamarck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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FAQs on Difference between Acquired and Inherited Traits

1. Explain Inherited and Acquired traits.

Purchased Traits: 

  • They are variable somatics. 

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

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

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

Inherited Character: 

  • These are the hereditary variations. 

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

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

  • Example: free or attached earlobe and curly hair.

2. Differentiate between Inherited and Acquired Traits.

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

  • 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. 

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

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

3. Describe the following terms related to Inheritance. Also, explain how they contribute to inheritance? 

  • DNA and RNA 

  • Heredity

  • Dominant trait


  • Full form of DNA is Deoxyribonucleic acid. 

  • This molecule is composed of two polynucleotide chains which are coiled around each other in a double helix like structure.

  • DNA is an important molecule and in combination with RNA, it forms nucleic acids.

  • DNA is the structural unit of 'genes'. These genes combine to form chromosomes. Therefore, DNA is also related to the formation of chromosomes.

  • This molecule packs all the genetic information. This genetic information is passed further during the process of inheritance.


  • Ribonucleic acid is the full form of RNA and it combines with DNA. This makes up an acid called nucleic acid.

  •  It is similar to DNA in structure, but it is single stranded and has different functions and properties.

  • These are various types of RNA such as messenger RNA (mRNA),transfer RNA (tRNA), ribosomal RNA etc.

  • During the process of inheritance, these molecules help in converting the genetic information into the body's proteins. This results in formation of the body (developing embryo).

Dominant trait -

  • If a genetic trait is overriding the other genetic traits, it is termed as dominance in genetics and this trait is known as the dominant trait.

  • The most common example of a dominant trait is the gender of a new born child. If the male chromosomes override the female chromosomes, the gender of the child will be male and vice versa.

  • Dominance is a relative effect between two alleles (of given function and gene).

  • Dominance is one of the most important concepts related to Mendelian inheritance and classical genetics.

4. Write a short note of heredity. Also, explain its importance in passing the traits from a parent to child.

Heredity is also called biological inheritance. It is the passing of traits and physical features from a parent to its offspring. There are usually 2 copies of chromosomes present. One copy is inherited from the female side(eggs), and another copy from the male side(sperm). These are explained in detail with the concept of reproduction in human beings. These copies contain 23 chromosomes each. During the process of heredity, the trait which overrides other traits is inherited to the child. Therefore, the concept of heredity is responsible for passing traits from one generation to another. Vedantu provides free study material to students. From vedantu's free notes and PDF, students can learn the concept of 'genes overriding' to understand the above mentioned topics in depth. 

5. Acquired traits are inherited with the help of RNA molecules. Justify the statement. 

RNA can inherit several acquired molecules to the further generation. Researchers have found that inheriting the acquired traits is becoming an important cause of 'evolution' in human beings and other organisms. This type of inheritance does not include DNA molecules .In a study, Scientists found that roundworms developed resistance to a virus. This made them pass the immunity to their further generation without the help of DNA inheritance. This immunity was transferred in the form of viRNAs (viral-silencing agents). These molecules work independently of the organism’s genome.

Similarly, during world war 2, starving months gave birth to children. These were susceptible to obesity and many other metabolic disorders. This proved the inheritance of traits because of RNA. Later, Dr. Hobert claimed the chances of RNA to be involved in the inheritance process. Also, this theory proved that genes are usually inactive, without the RNA.