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What is Heredity?

Biology | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod, Interactive

Definition of Heredity

Have you ever wondered why your grandmother says that your eyes look like your mother’s, or that you have inherited your father’s athletic traits? Have you ever thought why they say “like father like son?” A trait is a unique characteristic that describes a person, like his personality or his physical feature. Your teacher could say that you have a trait of being shy. Traits are inherited qualities which we get from our parents. Your shyness could have come from your mother also being shy when she was of your age. If both of your parents have peanut allergies, then you will also have the trait of being allergic to eating peanuts. The passing on of mental and physical traits from one generation to another is defined as heredity.

For example, parents with black hair will likely give birth to children with black hair, just as parents with long noses will have kids with long noses.

What is DNA and Chromosomes?

Humans have two complete sets of 23 chromosomes, which are microscopic, thread like parts in each cell, containing a protein and an acid called DNA. These carry the hereditary information from one generation to another in the form of genes. Genes is the smallest unit of heredity, which is passed from a parent to their child. The sperm cell however, has one set of chromosomes which combines with the egg cell from the mother, which also has one set of chromosome, and they form a zygote. The zygote develops into the child. Chromosomes are distributed randomly from the parents, resulting in a unique combination of traits in the child. For example, the first child could inherit his father’s above par sense of road directions, while the second child could inherit her mother’s graceful ballet skills.

Father of Genetics

Gregor Mendel, often called the “father of genetics”, had wondered why two pea plants did not look alike like in their pea pod structure and color. His experiments with breeding or pollinating different pea plants, led him to discover dominant traits and recessive traits. For example, brown hair is a dominant trait over blonde hair. So if someone inherits a blonde hair gene from the mother and a brown hair gene from the father, he will have brown hair.

Heredity gives you a chance to explore your heritage. You can discover amusing facts about your parents and what embarrassing behaviors they have, which you also tend to display in front of your friends. If you think your voices is hoarse and loud, then look at your parents, and see who also talks loudly. Make a family tree, and see which fun qualities your parents have inherited from their parents. You will be surprised to see how many of these qualities have been passed down to you also.