A trait can be defined as a special feature present in a person. Human beings have different combinations of traits; hence each person is different from another.
Traits are inherited from our parents and are passed on to the next generation. This explains why children resemble their parents and siblings resemble one another. Heredity is the passing of traits from one generation to another.
Human beings have thousands of genes. Genes are specific arrangements of DNA that make up traits. It is genes that make up what we are. Traits can be physical, behavioral or predisposed to a medical condition.
Physical traits show the physical make-up – how we look, the color of the eyes or hair, height, how one smiles or laughs and a host of other things. These are passed on for generations.
Behavioral traits are how one acts.
There is an increased risk of passing on a particular illness like heart disease from one or both parents to their children. This is termed as a predisposed medical condition.
Non-genetic environmental factors also play a role in behavioral traits. They may shape our traits or even change them. For example, inherited color of hair can be bleached by the sun or dyed with chemicals. And though a person may have an inherent risk of heart disease, which is genetic or hereditary, a careful diet and exercise reduces or lessens the impact of this disease.
Human beings inherit their parent’s traits. Human beings have two sets of 23 chromosomes each. When conception takes place the egg and sperm join to create a single cell called a ‘zygote’ which has two sets of chromosomes. This cell will ultimately develop into a child. When a child is born, each parent contributes one set of chromosomes and genes to the child, which are passed on.
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