Acquired Trait

A Young Male and Female Flexing Their Muscles. Getty/Peter Muller

An acquired trait is defined as a characteristic or trait that produces a phenotype that is a result of an environmental influence. Acquired traits are not coded for in the DNA of an individual and therefore cannot be passed down to offspring during reproduction. In order for a characteristic or trait to be passed down to the next generation, it must be part of the individual's genotype.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck incorrectly hypothesized that acquired traits could indeed be passed down from parent to offspring and therefore make the offspring more suited to their environment or stronger in some way. ​Charles Darwin originally adopted this idea in his first publication of his Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection, but later took this out once there was more evidence to show acquired traits were not passed down from generation to generation.


An example of an acquired trait would be an offspring born to a body builder that had extremely large muscles. Lamarck thought that the offspring would automatically be born with the larger muscles like the parent. However, since the larger muscles were an acquired trait through years of training and environmental influences, the large muscles were not passed down to the offspring.