What is a trait?-Genetics and Inherited Traits

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What is a trait?

Traits are characteristics or features that can be passed from one generation to another.

The picture of various dogs below illustrates several different traits of dogs.
traits of dogs

Some examples of traits include hair color, height, ear shape, nose shape, size of their teeth, and even the sound of their bark. Each of these factors can be passed genetically to another generation. Alleles are different forms of the same trait. In this picture notice the different shapes of the noses. These would be examples of alleles because they are different forms of the same trait.

traits alleles
Traits can also be dominant or recessive.
For individuals that reproduce sexually, they receive two alleles for each gene, one coming from the female parent and the other from the male. A dominant gene can be expressed even if only one copy of the gene is present. The dominant gene will mask or override the recessive gene. A recessive trait will only be expressed in an individual who inherits recessive alleles.

Gregor Mendel was one of the first individuals to study traits. He bred pea plants and studied several different traits of these plants.

mendel pea plants from wikipedia

The pea plants had several traits Gregor Mendel could easily study such as the type of seeds, flower color, or color of the pod. Each trait had different forms which we call alleles. For example, the pod could be yellow or green.

Traits are different than acquired characteristics which are non-inheritable characteristics. In other words, they are characteristics that are caused after birth by disease, injury, accident, deliberate modification, or repeated use. For example, your skin color is inherited from your parents, but changing your skin color by getting a tattoo is not a trait because your offspring will not inherit the tattoo.

tatoo example acquired characteristic

In summary, a trait is a feature that can be passed from one generation to the next.

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