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How Plants and Animals are Inherited

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Mike Graham

on 19 May 2016

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Transcript of How Plants and Animals are Inherited

Inherited Characteristics
You are not likely to mistake a zebra for any other animal. They look like horses, but they are not horses. Zebras have black and white stripes. Their manes are short and stand up on their necks. These are inherited characteristics. They are shared by all zebras.
The prickly pear cactus has sharp spines. Look at its paddle-shaped pads. These are flattened stems that act like leaves. They have a waxy coating to help the plant hold in moisture. Notice that the pads have two kinds of sharp spines. Some spines are long. Other spines are short but break off easily. The cactus looks the way it does because it has inherited these traits.
Characteristics of Living Things
In the middle of the nineteenth century, a monk named Gregor Mendel was hard at work in his garden. He noticed that his pea plants were not all exactly alike. All of the pea plants had stems, leaves, flowers, pods, and peas. But they also had some differences in characteristics. Characteristics are the qualities an organism has. Some of the plants were tall while others were short. Some had purple flowers while others had white ones. The pods might be green or yellow. The peas themselves might be smooth or wrinkled.
The pea plants were like their parents because of characteristics passed them on. But Mendel found that the offspring did not always look exactly like their parents. Sometimes they received different characteristics. Some offspring even had different characteristics than other plants with the same parents. Mendel asked himself why. Many years later, his work became the basis for the scientific study of heredity, or the passing of characteristics from parents to offspring.
How Plant and Animal Characteristics are Inherited
Animals and plants inherit their characteristics from their parents and look very much like them. In science to inherit is to receive characteristics from an organism's parents. Animals and plants will pass these traits on to their own offspring.
Human Beings
People also inherit many characteristics from their parents. A person's parents may be very tall, and so that person may grow to be very tall also. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes a child may grow up to be taller or shorter than his or her parents. Height is not the only inherited characteristic. Some characteristics, such as hair and eye color,are also inherited.
Parents, Offspring, and Advantages
You know that baby animals look somewhat like their parents. Cats give birth to kittens, and lions give birth to lion cubs. Sometimes, offspring from the same parents can look different from each other. They may have different characteristics than other organisms of the same type. It may be easier or more difficult for the offspring with different characteristics to compete. Competition occurs when two or more living things need the same resources in order to survive.

One example that shows competition is in giraffes. Male giraffes use their long necks to fight with other males. The winner of the fight is more attractive to the female giraffe. This male reproduces. The longer and stronger a male giraffe's neck is, the better chance he has to pass these characteristics on to offspring. Over time, giraffes inherit longer and stronger necks.

In England, peppered moths used to survive by using their light color as camouflage on the lichens began to die off. Birds that eat peppered moths could see them more easily against the dark color of the trees. Moths that inherited a darker color could blend in better against the trees. These moths survived and had offspring who were also darker in color. Over time, the common color of the peppered moth shifted from light to dark. The darker color gave those individual organisms an advantage over the lighter colored moths. An advantage is a characteristic that can help an individual compete.
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