The Human Body

Heredity

Heredity, process of transmitting biological traits from parent to offspring through genes, the basic units of heredity. Heredity also refers to the inherited characteristics of an individual, including traits such as height, eye color, and blood type.

Heredity accounts for why offspring look like their parents: when two dogs mate, for example, they have puppies, not kittens. If the parents are both Chihuahuas, the puppies will also be Chihuahuas, not great Danes or Labrador retrievers. The puppies may be a little taller or shorter, a little lighter or a lot heavier than their parents are. Their faces may look a little different, or they may have different talents and temperaments. In all the important characteristics, however—the number of limbs, arrangement of organs, general size, fur type—they will share the traits of their parents. The principles of heredity hold true not only for a puppy but also for a virus, a roundworm, a pansy, or a human.