Inherited vs. Acquired Traits

Lesson Objectives

Identify and describe the difference between inherited traits and the physical and behavioral traits that are acquired or learned.


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Traits are qualities, features or other things that distinguish the organism. They can include things like hair color, tooth shape, beak shape, bone size, or muscle structure. Traits come in two varieties: acquired and inherited.


In organisms, inherited traits must come from a parent or other ancestor. A trait may seem to skip a generation or even two or three, but if a trait shows up it must have been present in an ancestor. Mutations are the exception to this rule. Inherited traits include things such as hair color, eye color, muscle structure, bone structure, and even features like the shape of a nose. Inheritable traits are traits that get passed down from generation to the next generation. This might include things like passing red hair down in a family. For animals it may include things like the stripes on a tiger, a skunk's ability to spray, or the flavor of fruit from different apple trees. All plants and animals that reproduce pass on traits to their offspring.
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Acquired Traits
Acquired traits include things such as calluses on fingers, larger muscle size from exercise or from avoiding predators. Behaviors that help an organism survive would also be considered acquired characteristics most of the time. Things like where to hide, what animals to hide from and other behaviors. For plants, acquired characteristics might include bending because of wind or growths resulting from insect bites.
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Great White Inherited Traits
Think about your inherited traits and acquired traits. Open a google document, share it with Mrs. Lawson then list one inherited trait and one acquired trait. It could be your favorite acquired trait like the Great White Shark's in the video above.



Explore the following if you need additional help understanding this lesson!

3 Acquired and Inherited Traits