101 Acquired Traits Examples

acquired traits examples and definition, explained below

Acquired traits are those characteristics or attributes that organisms do not inherit genetically from their parents but rather develop due to certain experiences or environmental influences during their lifetime (Stansfield, 2011).

These traits can either be physical, such as muscle development from exercise, or behavioral, like language proficiency from regular practice.

Changes that occur during an organism’s life are generally not considered inheritable (Stansfield, 2011).

For instance, if a person learns to play the piano (a behavioural change), their offspring will not genetically inherit this ability; they will need to learn and practise the skill [Liu, & Chen, 2018].

Acquired Traits vs Inherited Traits

Inherited traits are the genetic attributes passed down from parents to their offspring, deeply embedded in an organism’s DNA (Stansfield, 2011).

These traits, which include elements like eye color, hair type, and certain diseases, are determined by an individual’s genetic makeup and are present at birth.

For example, if both parents have blue eyes, the child is likely to inherit this trait (Berent, 2020).

These inherited traits form part of the genetic blueprint of an organism and contribute to its fundamental physiology and function.

Contrastingly, acquired traits are characteristics that organisms develop during their lifetimes, influenced by environmental factors, experiences or their own behavior.

These traits, such as muscle development through exercise or learned skills like speaking a foreign language, are not present at birth but evolve as individuals interact with their environment and accumulate various experiences (Stansfield, 2011).

Traditional understanding posits that these acquired traits cannot be passed on genetically to the next generation. However, recent study into epigenetics suggests this might not always be the case. The topic remains a subject of ongoing scientific debate (Cabej, 2012).

FeatureAcquired TraitsInherited Traits
DefinitionTraits developed during an individual’s lifetime due to environmental factors, experiences, or learned behaviors.Traits passed from one generation to the next through genes.
OriginResult from an individual’s experiences and environment.Result from genetic information passed down by parents.
ExamplesLearning a language, acquiring a skill like playing an instrument, or getting a scar from an injury.Eye color, hair texture, certain genetic diseases, height (though environment can play a role too). See more: 50 inherited traits examples.
Transmission to OffspringNot passed down to offspring through genes.Passed down to offspring through genes.
DurationCan change over an individual’s lifetime.Typically remain constant over an individual’s lifetime, though some may only manifest at certain ages.
Impact of EnvironmentDirectly influenced by the environment, experiences, and learning.Largely unaffected by individual experiences, but the expression can sometimes be influenced by the environment (e.g., nutrition affecting height).

Acquired Traits Examples

  1. Reading skills
  2. Riding a bicycle
  3. Speaking a second language
  4. Playing a musical instrument
  5. Knowledge of math
  6. Cooking skills
  7. Bodybuilding results
  8. Knowledge of history
  9. Ability to code in a programming language
  10. Tattoos
  11. Scars from injuries
  12. Tanned skin from sun exposure
  13. Knowledge of a particular sport
  14. Surgical alterations, like a nose job
  15. Learned fears or phobias
  16. Acquired tastes, like for spicy food
  17. Calluses from physical work or playing instruments
  18. Driving skills
  19. Dancing ability
  20. Painting or drawing skills
  21. Writing skills
  22. Knowledge about a specific subject, like astronomy
  23. Meditation practices
  24. Yoga skills
  25. Swimming ability
  26. Skills in a specific sport, like basketball
  27. Knowledge of poetry
  28. Piercings
  29. Hair dyed a certain color
  30. Memories of personal experiences
  31. Knowledge of geography
  32. Ability to solve puzzles
  33. Skills in photography
  34. Gardening skills
  35. Experience in public speaking
  36. Ability to operate specific machinery
  37. Skills in a specific craft, like knitting
  38. Knowledge of philosophy
  39. Habits, good or bad
  40. A trained voice for singing
  41. Mastery in martial arts
  42. Knowledge of various movies or books
  43. Baking skills
  44. Skills in certain video games
  45. Experiences from travel
  46. Hiking abilities
  47. Acquired immunity from vaccinations or diseases
  48. Hairstyling skills
  49. Fashion sense or style
  50. Skills in magic tricks
  51. The ability to juggle
  1. Knowledge of world events
  2. The ability to write poetry or stories
  3. Bird-watching skills
  4. Skills in digital design or graphic design
  5. Carpentry skills
  6. Knowledge about cars or mechanics
  7. Fishing skills
  8. Climbing skills
  9. Knowledge about plants or botany
  10. The ability to play chess or other board games
  11. Insights from personal relationships
  12. The ability to perform certain lab experiments
  13. Experience in theater or acting
  14. Skills in a specific dance form, like ballet or salsa
  15. Appreciation for certain music genres
  16. Religious beliefs or practices
  17. Ethical or moral beliefs
  18. Political beliefs or affiliations
  19. A trained palate for food critique
  20. Experience or skills in mountaineering
  21. Skills in archery or shooting
  22. The ability to whistle
  23. Handwriting style
  24. The ability to mime
  25. Skills in pottery or sculpting
  26. Experience in journalism or reporting
  27. Knowledge of various cultures or traditions
  28. Navigation skills, terrestrial or aquatic
  29. Training in first aid or medical procedures
  30. The ability to DJ or produce music
  31. Acquired fears from past traumatic events
  32. The ability to build things, like furniture or electronics
  33. Experience in diving or snorkeling
  34. Knowledge of astronomy or stargazing
  35. Lock picking skills
  36. Skills in different types of workouts, like pilates or aerobics
  37. Financial management or budgeting skills
  38. Experience in sailing or boating
  39. Insights or skills from parenting
  40. The ability to tell stories or anecdotes
  41. Experience in farming or agriculture
  42. Experience or knowledge in beekeeping
  43. The ability to solve Rubik’s cubes or other puzzles
  44. Skills in mixology or creating drinks
  45. Experience or knowledge in animal training
  46. Knowledge or experience in photography editing
  47. Skills in horseback riding.
  48. Mastery in a specific type of dance, like tap dancing.
  49. Knowledge or experience in falconry.
  50. The ability to perform stand-up comedy.
  51. Culinary skills from specific cuisines, like Japanese or French.

Types of Acquired Traits

Physical and mental are two broad categories under which acquired traits can be classified.

Physical traits refer to those observable changes in an organism’s anatomy or function, while mental traits pertain to changes in behavior, habits, or skills shaped by experiences and learning through a lifetime. 

1. Physical

Physical acquired traits are easy to spot. For example, developing muscles through physical training is considered a physical acquired trait (Stansfield, 2011).

While some people may be able to gain muscle faster than others due to genetic factors, no one inherits a well-built body and toned muscles from their ancestors. It is the result of individual effort, diet, and regimen.

Also important are changes in skin pigmentation due to exposure to sunlight. When individuals spend long periods in sunny conditions, the skin produces more melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, to protect itself.

The eventual effect is skin darkening or tanning, a physical trait not present at birth but acquired over time.

2. Mental

Mental acquired traits encompass all behavioral changes induced by experiences and learning.

For instance, learning a language, a musical instrument, or developing a hobby are all examples of mental acquired traits (Berent, 2020). You don’t hear doctors telling new parents that their child has inherited the French language or proficiency in playing the violin.

Further to this, our attitudes, preferences, personality traits, and even certain emotional responses can be classified as mental acquired traits (Berent, 2020).

For example, developing a fear of spiders after a traumatic experience is a mental acquired trait. The individual didn’t inherit this fear; they acquired it through a specific experience.

Both of these categories highlight how organisms adapt to their environment and experiences, shaping their individual characteristics beyond their genetic blueprint.

Acquired Traits and Epigenetics

An interesting shift in the understanding of this concept has emerged with the advance of the field of epigenetic principles of evolution.

Cabej (2012) provides evidence on how environmental factors can influence gene expression without changing the genetic code.

These epigenetic changes can sometimes be passed on to the next generation, introducing a new perspective to the concept of acquired traits.

For example, research on the expression of “happiness” and “violence” genes found that certain emotional experiences can potentially influence the expression of these genes (Malmir, Farhud, & Khan Ahmadi, 2016).

This doesn’t alter the genetic code itself but changes its expression, essentially a shift in our understanding of acquired traits.

While substantive research has been conducted on whether acquired traits can be inherited, the scientific community is yet to reach a definitive consensus. Many researchers argue that while epigenetic changes occur, they don’t necessarily translate into changes in inherited traits across generations (Liu, & Chen, 2018).

The interaction between genetics and environmental influence is a complex process. It is the foundational element of evolutionary theory and reasoning, which helps us better understand human nature and behaviour (Berent, 2020).


Acquired traits are characteristics that organisms develop during their lifetime due to environmental influences and experiences. While traditionally these traits were considered non-heritable, ongoing research in epigenetics opens up new possibilities about the transmission and inheritance of such traits (Cabej, 2012; Liu, & Chen, 2018; Malmir, Farhud, & Khan Ahmadi, 2016; Stansfield, 2011). However, the definitive statement on whether and how acquired traits can be inherited is yet to be made. The intricate relationship between genetics and external influences is a crucial aspect of our understanding of evolution and human nature (Berent, 2020; Jantsch, 2019).


Berent, I. (2020). The blind storyteller: How we reason about human nature. Oxford University Press.

Cabej, N. (2012). Epigenetic principles of evolution. London: Elsevier.

Jantsch, E. (2019). Unifying principles of evolution. In The evolutionary vision (pp. 83-115). Routledge.

Liu, Y., & Chen, Q. (2018). 150 years of Darwin’s theory of intercellular flow of hereditary information. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology19(12), 749-750.

Malmir, M., Farhud, D., & Khan Ahmadi, M. (2016). . Inheritance of Acquired Traits: Expression of Happiness and Violence Genes. Laboratory & Diagnosis7(30), 27-34.

Stansfield, W. D. (2011). Acquired traits revisited. The American Biology Teacher73(2), 86-89.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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