Created By: zarpaulus on May 24, 2014 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on November 5, 2017
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Recessive Super Genes

Superpowerful Genetics sometimes skip a generation, sometimes more than one.

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YKTTW now sponsored by Morgenthaler per Up for Grabs rules.
In biology some alleles have effects that are suppressed by other alleles of the same gene, these genes are called "recessive" and the suppressing genes are said to be "dominant". Because many organisms have at least two of each gene it is fairly common for a recessive gene to hide within a family for multiple generations before a carrier mates with another carrier and their offspring inherits two copies of the allele.

In fiction, it's not uncommon for things like superpowers to be hereditary, but sometimes the powers "skip" a generation or two rather than being inherited by children. However there's sometimes a bit of Hollywood Genetics thrown in as well if the writer doesn't get how traits skip generations.

Compare Randomly Gifted, when the powers don't necessarily have any relation to genetics.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Age: Flit Asuno and his grandson Kio are X-Rounders, while Flit's son/Kio's father Asem isn't.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: The ability to use the Ripple, a form of biological energy that fuels an anti-vampire martial art, seems to be a recessive gene. Jonathan Joestar had it, but not his son George Joestar, however George's unrelated wife did, and their child Joseph Joestar had it to such a degree that it manifested even before he had any training.
  • In Devil Hunter Yohko, the titular character's mother never became a demon hunter because she lost her virginity at age 15 and was unable to inherit the title.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe the genes that give mutant super powers appear to be recessive. There are plenty of people with the genes that don't have any mutant abilities at all, but they can have children that do.

    Film 
  • In Teen Wolf the eponymous Teen Wolf's father is also a werewolf. He didn't tell his son about it because sometimes it skips a generation, so until it manifested there was no need to worry him.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter:
    • According to Word of God Muggle-born witches and wizards have magic-using ancestors somewhere. It skips several generations to manifest randomly.
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: When Professor Umbridge interviews Trelawney, the Divination professor, she notes that while Trelawney is the great-granddaughter of a noted seeress, her family hasn't produced one of that talent since (the readers are already familiar with Trelawney's own very hit-or-miss record from Prisoner of Azkaban). Trelawney nervously states that the talent often skips several generations. This doesn't stop Umbridge from having her sacked.
  • In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Miss Peregrine explains to Jacob that peculiar traits often skip generations.
    Miss Peregrine: Peculiar traits often skip a generation or ten. Peculiar children are not always, or even usually, born to peculiar parents, and peculiar parents do not always, or even usually, bear peculiar children.
  • Erast Fandorin's "superpower" is his incredible luck, which is also the case with his grandfather and his grandson, but absolutely not the case with his father and his son. He eventually concludes that luck seems to skip every other generation in his family for some reason.
  • Due to a major magical disruption about three thousand years ago, a rule rather than an exception in the Sword of Truth books. Adie and Verna were both born to skips.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stargate Atlantis establishes that the Ancient Technology Activation (ATA) gene that enables the use of many technologies of the Ancients is recessive, meaning it tends to die out of the smaller captive populations of Transplanted Humans in the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies. Earth is an exception whose population is large enough to maintain it, and Stargate Command eventually develops a therapy to add it to their other personnel.
  • The Babylon 5 episode "Dust to Dust" has G'Kar state that the Narns' telepaths were all killed off centuries ago (indicated later to have taken place during the previous Shadow War), and the gene has never been strong enough among the remaining population to produce more. They still carry the genes, though, or else the telepathy-boosting Fantastic Drug "dust" wouldn't work on them.
  • In That's So Raven, Raven gets her psychic powers from her mother's side of the family. Her maternal grandmother is also a clairvoyant, however her mother Tanya is not. Subverted in Raven's Home as one of Raven's twins (her son Booker) inherits her psychic powers, however Raven doesn't know this.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In both Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Werewolf: The Forsaken lycanthropy is explicitly stated to be recessive, mating between werewolves and ordinary humans (and wolves in the earlier game) rarely produces werewolves. Mating with carriers of the werewolf gene, who can't shift but can develop some minor powers, has a much higher chance of making werewolves. In the former game two werewolves could breed but their progeny (called metis) had deformities from metaphysical inbreeding and were sterile, the latter has gone back and forth on whether anything happened when werewolves mated with one another.
  • In Warhammer40000, being a Navigator (a type of Psyker) is a recessive gene. As psykers are typically avoided by the general population and Navigators are very egotistical, this suits both parties just fine. However it also means that the Navigator Houses are extremely inbred.
  • The Forgotten Realms 3.5 Edition supplement Races of Faerun states that the Uneven Hybrid planetouched races (chiefly part-angel, mostly-human aasimar, part-fiend tieflings, and part-elemental genasi, though there are other combinations such as elf/fiend fey'ri) can sometimes have the Outsider portion of their bloodline go dormant. This leads to several generations of the base species that may then have the Outsider traits reemerge much later.

    Webcomics 
  • In The Cyantian Chronicles Elite genes seem to be recessive. Cousins Darius and Kela Akaelae are Elites who have normal parents but their grandfather, Alpha Akaelae, was the last of the first generation wolf Elites. And it seems that most of the cubs sired by the first generation Elites didn't express the gene.
  • In Skin Deep, fantastic creatures can use magical amulets to become human. Any children inherit both the parent's species and a modified version of the human-shape spell that keeps them human all the time (so-called Unturned), and so do their children. Unless an Unturned gets a medallion of their own (breaking the modified spell), the trait can remain dormant through many generations of Unturned. This leads to everything from the supposed extinction of sphinxesnote  to Alec's insistence that all horror writers are Unturned bugbears.
  • In Charby the Vampirate Victor inherited his quick healing, magic resistance and Weirdness Magnet tendencies from his paternal grandfather, whose own grandfather is also revealed to have had it, but Victor's father was a "dud" without any such aptitude.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dragon: Jake Long dragonhood apparently skips a generation. Jake's parents are humans but he and his grandpa are dragons.
  • In Ben 10 Gwen's grandmother was an Energy Being with magic-like powers. Her parents seem to be just human but she has the powers, and it's implied could become an energy being.
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Krumm's ability to produce a powerful stench has been passed down in his family for generations, but supposedly skips a generation, and thus his father does not possess the ability.
  • Juniper from The Life and Times of Juniper Lee is the Te Xuan Ze, the chosen guardian of the border between humans and monsters in Orchid Bay. This title originally belonged to her grandmother, Juniper's father having skipped that title and thus is unaware of the supernatural.

Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • May 24, 2014
    Earnest
    Compare Randomly Gifted.
  • May 25, 2014
    Generality
    ^ Found an example there, too.

    According to Word Of God, Muggle-born wizards and witches in Harry Potter have wizard ancestry somewhere, meaning it skips several generations to emerge randomly later.
  • May 25, 2014
    dalek955
    • In Skin Deep, fantastic creatures can use magical amulets to become human. Any children inherit both the parent's species and a modified version of the human-shape spell that keeps them human all the time (so-called Unturned), and so do their children. Unless an Unturned gets a medallion of their own (breaking the modified spell), the trait can remain dormant through many generations of Unturned. This leads to everything from the supposed extinction of sphinxesnote  to Alec's insistence that all horror writers are Unturned bugbears.
  • May 25, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Can also mine Superpowerful Genetics and Hereditary Curse for examples.

    In Teen Wolf the eponymous Teen Wolf's father is also a werewolf. He didn't tell his son about it because sometimes it skips a generation, so until it manifested there was no need to worry him.
  • May 28, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Blue Linked media section titles(s).
  • May 28, 2014
    Arivne
    Comic Books
    • In the Marvel Universe the genes that give mutant super powers appear to be recessive. There are plenty of people with the genes that don't have any mutant abilities at all, but they can have children that do.
  • May 28, 2014
    DarkCyberWolf
    Repeat your American Dragon entry, but replace the show with "The Life and Times of Juniper Lee", replace the dragonhood with the Te Xuan Ze, and replace "grandpa" with "grandma".
  • June 6, 2014
    Synchronicity
  • June 6, 2014
    bitemytail
    In Warhammer40k, being a Navigator (a type of Psyker) is a recessive gene. As psykers are typically avoided by the general population and Navigators very egotistical, this suits both parties just fine.
  • June 9, 2014
    LordHerobrine
    Real Life: A man who's skin is so unbelievably smooth that metal objects stick to it, had two preceding generations of children after him, While the second generation has acquired his unique skin gene, his immediate descendants didn't.
  • June 9, 2014
    SharleeD
    If supernatural examples are to be included, the title ought to be broadened to something like Skips A Generation, as it's not necessarily genetic or "super". Indeed, it could even apply to certain forms of mundane inheritance, like how the Penvellyn family from Curse of Blackmoor Manor passed the secret of the meteorite down from grandparent to grandchild.
  • June 10, 2014
    Chabal2
    Invoked by Calvin's dad, who believes himself to "have all these great genes, but they're recessive. That's the problem around here." You keep teling yourself that.
  • June 10, 2014
    SKJAM
    ^ Jojos Bizarre Adventure: The ability to use the Ripple, a form of biological energy that fuels an anti-vampire martial art, seems to be a recessive gene. Jonathan Joestar had it, but not his son George Joestar, however George's unrelated wife did, and their child Joseph Joestar had it to such a degree that it manifested even before he had any training.
  • June 22, 2014
    gallium
    Might be appropriate to make this No Real Life Examples Please, as if it happened in Real Life it by definition is not a "super gene".
  • June 22, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ If it weren't for Lord Herobrine I would have thought we wouldn't have needed it.
  • June 22, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ his example needs citation anyways.
  • June 29, 2014
    TomWalpertac2
    Never mind. My example wasn't.
  • July 7, 2014
    Laevatein
    Mobile Suit Gundam Age: Flit Asuno and his grandson Kio are X-Rounders, while Flit's son/Kio's father Asem isn't.
  • June 6, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.

    Updated to here.
  • July 31, 2016
    DAN004
    Bump, maybe
  • November 18, 2016
    Owlivia
    [[Ac:Literature]] Miss Peregrine: Peculiar traits often skip a generation or ten. Peculiar children are not always, or even usually, born to peculiar parents, and peculiar parents do not always, or even usually, bear peculiar children.
  • August 6, 2016
    Owlivia
    Make that "...peculiar parents do not always, or even usually, bear peculiar children." Sorry, I wasn't exactly focusing.
  • August 7, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    FYI, you can edit your own posts.
  • August 7, 2016
    ErikModi
    • The whole plot of Sky High. Will Stronghold, son of two of the greatest superheroes of the time, seems to have no superpowers at all. Until about halfway through the film, where the genes finally kick in and he gets his dad's super strength. At the climax of the film, he gets his mother's Flight power as well. A straighter example is Ron Wilson, Bus Driver, also the son of two super-powered individuals, who has no powers at all well into adulthood. [[Until he falls into a vat of toxic waste.]]
  • August 7, 2016
    zarpaulus
    ^ I don't think that's a case of "recessive" super genes so much as "dormant".
  • August 8, 2016
    StarSword
    Harry Potter again:
    • In Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, when Professor Umbridge interviews Trelawney, the Divination professor, she notes out that while Trelawney is the great-granddaughter of a noted seeress, her family hasn't produced one of that talent since (and the readers are already familiar with Trelawney's own very hit-or-miss record from Prisoner of Azkaban). Trelawney nervously states that the talent often skips several generations. This doesn't stop Umbridge from having her sacked.
  • August 11, 2016
    Owlivia
    For some reason when I had to change the comment the little edit button wasn't there.
  • August 12, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ you have to refresh first
  • November 8, 2016
    zarpaulus
    Bump
  • November 8, 2016
    StrixObscuro
    Western Animation
    • In Aaahh Real Monsters, Krumm's ability to produce a powerful stench has been passed down in his family for generations, but supposedly skips a generation, and thus his father does not possess the ability.
  • December 4, 2016
    TBTabby
    Issue 03 of PS238 introduces Tyler Marlocke, the son of two influential superheroes who enrolled him in the school on the assumption that he was sure to manifest powers sooner or later. To make sure he doesn't get killed, Principal Cranston calls in Searchlight to be his private tutor.
  • November 14, 2016
    zarpaulus
    ^ Until further notice I'm categorizing that as a Muggle Born Of Mages.
  • November 17, 2016
    StarSword
    TV:
    • Stargate Atlantis establishes that the Ancient Technology Activation (ATA) gene that enables the use of many technologies of the Ancients is recessive, meaning it tends to die out of the smaller captive populations of Transplanted Humans in the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies. Earth is an exception whose population is large enough to maintain it, and Stargate Command eventually develops a therapy to add it to their other personnel.
    • The Babylon Five episode "Dust to Dust has G'Kar state that the Narns' telepaths were all killed off centuries ago (indicated later to have taken place during the previous Shadow War), and the gene has never been strong enough among the remaining population to produce more. They still carry'' the genes, though, or else the telepathy-boosting Fantastic Drug "dust" wouldn't work on them.
  • November 17, 2016
    zarpaulus
    ^ Recessive means that you need two copies of that specific allele of the gene for the trait to be expressed, which can cause it to "skip a generation" when a kid inherits only one copy and then has a kid with another carrier of the allele.

    I fail to see how the B5 example is one.
  • November 17, 2016
    zarpaulus
    ^ Recessive means that you need two copies of that specific allele of the gene for the trait to be expressed, which can cause it to "skip a generation" when a kid inherits only one copy and then has a kid with another carrier of the allele.

    I fail to see how the B5 example is one.
  • November 17, 2016
    StarSword
    ^Tropes Are Not Narrow. The point of the example is that the Narns only have the non-telepath portion of the Punnett square left because the relevant alleles were eliminated from their gene pool altogether by the Shadows, rather like how the ATA gene tends to get bred out of smaller human populations in the Stargate Verse. Besides which that's a simplistic view of genetics: many traits like skin color are controlled by combinations of several sets of alleles, rather like how B5 has at least twelve tiers of telepathic potency. But the Narns are still carriers of the genes, or else Dust (a Fantastic Drug) wouldn't work on them. (I'll edit the example.)

    Tabletop Games:
    • The Forgotten Realms 3.5 Edition supplement Races of Faerun states that the Uneven Hybrid planetouched races (chiefly part-angel, mostly-human aasimar, part-fiend tieflings, and part-elemental genasi, though there are other combinations such as elf/fiend fey'ri) can sometimes have the Outsider portion of their bloodline go dormant. This leads to several generations of the base species that may then have the Outsider traits reemerge much later.
  • November 19, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Updated examples to here.

    I do think we need to talk more about what sets this apart from Muggle Born Of Mages.
  • November 19, 2016
    zarpaulus
    ^ You could say that it's when the Muggle Born Of Mages has mage kids.
  • November 22, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    ^ I don't think (but I could be wrong) that it's a requirement for a Muggle Born Of Mages to have no possibility of a magic resurgance with the next generation. That's actually Generational Magic Decline if it's an irreversible one-way thing.

    You can take the draft back if you want to, BTW. You were inactive for quite a while, but I've got enough other drafts on my plate as is.
  • November 23, 2016
    StarSword
    ^,^^There's overlap between the two tropes but they cover different ground. See Burn The Undead and Fire Keeps It Dead as a comparable complementary trope pair: FKID is often a reason for BTU (e.g. a vampire cannot heal if you cauterize and kill the cells), but they're not the same concept. Same idea here: super-ism may cause Muggle Born Of Mages because the underlying genetic basis is recessive (or however you slice it), but that doesn't stop it from recurring later so it's still a different trope.

    TL;DR: One trope can be part of the other but is not required to be, and the second does not require the first.
  • November 23, 2016
    MarqFJA
    This would be a subtrope of Superpowerful Genetics and/or Magic Genetics, right?
  • October 28, 2017
    darkemyst
    Web Comics
    • In Charby The Vampirate Victor inherited his quick healing, magic resistance and Weirdness Magnet tendencies from his paternal grandfather, whose own grandfather is also revealed to have had it, but Victor's father was a "dud" without any such aptitude.
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