acquired characteristics, inheritance of

acquired characteristics, inheritance of defined in 1951 year

acquired characteristics, inheritance of - ACQUIRED CHARACTERISTICS, INHERITANCE OF;
acquired characteristics, inheritance of - Transmission to offspring of variations, which appeared in the parents as responses to environmental influences. E.g. exposure to sunlight causes darkening of the skin of white human beings, compared to others less exposed: an acquired characteristic. If this acquired characteristic were inherited, offspring of the darker parents would then tend, even if only very slightly, to be darker than offspring of the lighter parents, when both groups of offspring are reared in equal sunlight. The view that such inheritance occurs is commonly known as Lamarckism or Neo-Lamarckism. It is not widely thought that such inheritance is of importance in organisms reproducing sexually. When an acquired variation occurs, the gametes are not usually affected in such a way as to reproduce these variations in the offspring. It has however been shown that natural selection may change successive generations of a population so that a characteristic at first acquired only in response to the environment may come to develop independently of the environmental stimulus (genetic assimilation). Organisms reproducing asexually may, of course, hand on to their offspring part of the body complete with its acquired characteristics.

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