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Genetic Memory

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"Ripley's genes are all right too: They allow her reconstituted form to retain all her old memories, as if cookie dough could remember what a gingerbread man looked like."

Genetics is a funny thing; we inherit all sorts of things from our parents while at times developing entirely different tastes, personality and abilities. But in fiction land, you can discard that sentence: with the likes of Superpowerful Genetics, Lamarck Was Right and In the Blood, there's no limit to just how much a parent can influence (or more commonly, screw over) their children.

Genetic memory takes that a step further, giving the child or clone the parents' memories. This is usually explained as the memories being hard coded into the parents' and thus the child's DNA, as if it were a VHS tape that the child could hit "play" on. There are four common variants for how this happens:

  1. Designer Babies may have these skills thanks to Lamarck Was Right with some help from an Evilutionary Biologist, seeking to make Ubermenschen or Super Soldiers.
  2. Clones and occasionally twins will outright get the original's knowledge, skills, powers, or what have you, sometimes without needing literally genetically-encoded memory (i.e. the genomic identicalness is a necessary link, but the DNA itself doesn't record the memory; a very strange form of Twin Telepathy or supernatural soul affinity). The process of getting this memories can be disorienting, so it's not unusual for the clone to experience Resurrection Sickness due to this.
  3. Enlightened characters or energy beings can sometimes unlock these memories either via channeling ancestors rather than past lives or reading their DNA like a book.
  4. Alien species or diseases might have this naturally, or use advanced genetic engineering or telepathy to do this.

Similar to Past-Life Memories, except the soul is brand-spanking new and not a reincarnation. In general serves as a Justification for Upgrade Artifact via Secret Legacy. Often a convenient Hand Wave for how young (and therefore marketably hot) characters can have specialist knowledge that would realistically take years of education. May manifest as Dreaming of Times Gone By.

At some point in history, the idea that memories were passed down in RNA molecules, which are like DNA but not, entered the public consciousness, made camp, and refused to leave. While probably impossible, the popularity of this trope can be attributed to the Rule of Cool, and how in Real Life biology, DNA acts like a form of advanced memory storage (containing massive amounts of data for production and assembly of various complex proteins).

Compare In the Blood, Transferable Memory, Generation Xerox, All Theories Are True. For non-genetic means of acquiring others' memories and skills, see Ghost Memory and Past-Life Memories. For non-genetic means of transferring one's own memories to a new body, see Body Backup Drive. See Our Clones Are Different; media may try to justify this via the character being a clone.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the manga Akumetsu, the protagonists inherit each others memories by way of machinery they use. This is a tool in the plot.
  • Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock has a few of these, passed down from a parade of identical ancestors.
  • Cell from Dragon Ball Z was created from the DNA of Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Freeza, and King Cold, and knows all of their fighting techniques, as well as personal information on them that his creator Dr Gero could not possibly have known. He usually recognises the other characters on sight and talks to them like they are old friends even if he has never actually met them before. He even claims that Freeza's cells warn him when Goku tries to catch him with his own chasing Homing Destructo Disc.
    • Taken to the nth degree when Cell self-destructs and blows up King Kai's planet, also killing Goku — when Cell regenerates he knows the Instant Transmission technique that Goku employs. He somehow LEARNED the technique from Goku's CELLS.
  • In Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, it's said by the Big Bad that Dragon Knights have a "Genetic Battle Memory", that makes them remember every technique of their ancestors. The main character, Dai, gets this when he gets his father Baran's Dragon Crest, showing the use of, between other's, Baran's special technique Doruoora.
  • In the manga of Hades Project Zeorymer, Masato Akitsu seems to possess memories of the Zeorymer's construction as well as how to use it. It later turns out that Masato and Miku are NOT who you they think they are, but are in fact the original creator of the Zeorymer and his lover having been reverted 14 years ago into an embryonic state in order to avoid being killed, with Masato's old memories designed to re-activate upon contact with Zeorymer.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, several of the Chimera Ants possess the memories of humans the Chimera Ant Queen devoured thanks to the weird way Chimera Ant biology works. Notable examples include Colt, one of the first humanoid Chimera Ants who bears the memories of a little boy who was one of the Queen's first human victims, one of Hina's attendants who bears the memories of that same boy's little sister Reina, the Queen's second victim, and the Queen's last child, a little girl with a rat tail who insist on being called Kite.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
    • This was the purpose of Project F: to create a clone that retains all the thoughts of the original, letting one raise the dead in a way.
    • Also, the descendants of the ancient king Ingvalt (see ViVid) sometimes inherit his memories and martial arts knowledge. Einhart denies being an "extension of his existence" though.
    • The most extreme example of this in the franchise is Sieglinde Jeremiah of ViVid, who inherited the combined battle experience all the previous Jeremiahs in history, giving her, at worst, 500 years worth of genetic memory.
  • This is a relevant plot point in My Hero Academia. The Quirk factor, the DNA component which determines a person's Quirk, can store the person's consciousness. If the Quirk factor is successfully transplanted into another person, the new host not only manifests the Quirk but also has a high possibility of meeting its original owner in their minds. So far three people are confirmed to experience such rare phenomenon: All For One, Izuku Midoriya, and Tomura Shigaraki. It is a disturbing experience for All For One and Tomura Shigaraki due to their villainous tendencies. In contrast, Izuku doesn't suffer from any side effects since the spirits inside him want him to wield their Quirks.
  • This is a plot point in Moto Hagio's manga Otherworld Barbara, where memories of life's origins on Mars can be passed down by certain families.
  • In the intro to Pokémon: The First Movie, Dr. Fuji is trying to use cloning technology to bring his daughter Amber back to life. Before she dies, Ambertwo has all of the original Amber's memories.
    • In the ninth movie, the People of the Water have a genetic dream. After learning about it, Brock mentions "A memory written straight into your DNA? That's just... awesome..."
  • In Symphogear, it turns out that Big Bad Fine/Phine will take over any of her descendants if they're exposed to a certain phonic wavelength. Like the head of the science division, Ryouko Sakurai.

    Comic Books 
  • An issue of Aliens depicts the gestating Xenomorphs as experiencing an eerie blend of alien race-memory and the individual memories of the host they're growing inside.
  • Rosie in ElfQuest: The Rebels was created by mixing some human genes with genetic material extracted from a preserver corpse. She seems to retain the preserver memories.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: The 9-2010 issue of the Dutch version of Donald Duck magazine insists on "memory genes" passed on subconsciously by the parents. Somewhere, a biology teacher is crying.
  • Serpentor in G.I. Joe was programmed with historical data regarding the ancient leaders whose DNA were contributed to his genetic makeup, but he could also recall specific details, events, and feelings that could not be accounted for by Dr. Mindbender's program.
  • Professor Ulrich in Missile Mouse has inherited the knowledge of all of his ancestors.
  • In Paranoia, the protagonist King gets this ability due to a breeding program by Friend Computer.
  • Spider-Man's clones have Peter Parker's complete memories up to the time he was cloned in the Ultimate universe. Averted the mainstream continuity, in which it was stated that the Jackal implanted the memories into them via brainwashing. Or least when it comes to the first clone; one would assume that the same holds true for the rest.
    • The Venom symbiote and its spawn seem to have the ability to selectively pass on memories of a past host to a new one, although this may be less genetic memory and more telling the new guy what he needs to know. They do seem to have some level of race memory, overlapping with Hive Mind depending on the current retcon.
  • Superman:
    • Doomsday was a life form that, in the story Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey, had been released into primitive Krypton's harsh environment, killed by the native wildlife, and then cloned from the remains, again and again. He retained memories of all his deaths, eventually killing his creator as payback for his agony.
    • In The Great Darkness Saga, the Servant of Darkness Who was cloned from Orion has his dormant memories restored by Izaya.
  • Wolverine and Sabertooth are not related, but according to Wolverine: Origins (no, not the movie), both are part of a prehistoric race of wolfpeople who fought each other for millions of years because they have a different hair color, and this battle has been watched over since the beginning by someone who started out as an amino acid in the primordial ooze.
    • Unusually for a comic book clone, Wolverine's Opposite-Sex Clone, X-23, completely averts this trope, having to be implanted in the womb, carried to term, delivered via normal birth, and aging normally, while possessing none of Logan's memories.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Ghidorah is capable of regenerating practically From a Single Cell if it's killed and any trace of it is left, and with time, all three heads' individual personalities and memories can be regenerated from just a single decapitated head.
  • Murakumo Units in BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant are shown to have the memories of their genetic progenitor, often in the form of flashbacks. Noel learns that she, and Penny by extension, are clones of Ragna and Jin's younger sister, Saya, when she has memories of when Saya first started being cloned.
  • The Bridge:
    • Xenilla straddles between this and Past-Life Memories, as he is a heavily altered clone of the deceased Heisei Godzilla Sr. He starts having nightmares comprised of some of his donor's memories, which is very timely as the foe he sees Godzilla fighting in the past has recently reemerged.
    • Mothra Lea has the memories of her parents, Mothra and Battra, as well as the memories of all in the Mothra line.
    • Xenilla can also access the memories of the Mothra line (with help from Mothra Lea) since the blood of Godzilla that merged with the space crystal to form him came from Mothra's claws, meaning some of Mothra's cells were also absorbed by the crystal. Which makes Xenilla technically the son of Godzilla Sr. and Mothra.
    • Grand King Ghidorah attacked Earth in the distant past. The survivors were so traumatized by the carnage that their descendants — essentially every living thing on Earth — have a Primal Fear of him.
  • Averted in The PreDespair Kids. Kyoji Nakamura, the Ultimate Geneticist, explains that memories can't be transferred through DNA. As a result, clones don't share memories with the people they were created from and thus have their own identity.
  • In The Myamoto Project, a clone of Myamoto is produced from her blood. This clone has memories of Myamoto's.

  • The film version of Æon Flux is centered around a futuristic society of clones whose DNA are stored in an archive. Whenever a clone dies, their replacement gets implanted into a woman and is reborn. This is a stopgap solution to hide the fact everyone suffers from a Sterility Plague, while the elder Goodchild researches a cure. This is eventually shown to be not as universal as thought, and women are increasingly getting naturally pregnant, but the younger Goodchild is kidnapping and killing them to maintain their way of life and his grip on power. It is implied that genetic memories of people's past lives are transmitted this way and that the accumulation of said memories is slowly driving humanity insane. Interestingly, this was not the case with the Goodchild brothers, whose memories were not genetic but simply communicated from their previous versions in surprising detail. To the Goodchilds, it did feel like they have lived those past lives.
  • Alien: Resurrection: The Xenomorphs as a species possess this ability. Ripley 8's genetic memory was somehow the result of the cloning process mingling her physiology with some of the traits of the Xenomorph queen her predecessor had died carrying. For instance, her blood also became corrosive, though to a lesser extent than that of a pure Xenomorph.
  • Assassin's Creed: Like in the games, the genetic memory of Present Day Assassins is explored through the Animus device, sending them in the skin of their ancestors. In that case, the bloodline of one Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is of particular interest, as his Spanish 15th century ancestor Aguilar de Nerha (also Fassbender) held an Apple of Eden in his hands and fought tooth and nail to protect it. This version of the Animus also makes Callum reproduce the moves of his ancestor instead of a a table/seat-shaped Animus putting him in a sort of sleep.
  • In The Fifth Element, Leeloo's DNA was explicitly stated to be vastly more complex than regular DNA, which allowed her to retain her knowledge of her native language after she was regrown from her severed hand.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Dr. Lind quotes this word-for-word: it's the name of an In-Universe theory that all the Titans have an evolutionary impulse to return to where their species originally evolved. The implication is that this influences Kong in the film when he discovers his ancestors' temple in the Hollow Earth.
  • In Gremlins one of the gremlins is blown up in a microwave and in Gremlins 2: The New Batch the new batch of gremlins apparently know what a microwave is and destroy one by throwing kitchen utensils in it and turning it on. Also, Stripe, the Gremlin leader in the first movie, clearly has a vendetta against Gizmo for killing him, as his reborn self, Mohawk, spends most of his time in the second film torturing Gizmo rather than leading the rest of the Gremlins like his first iteration.
  • In The Island (2005) Lincoln Six Echo and some of the other clones have inherited faint memories from their originals, the main significance being that he can copy Tom Lincoln's Scottish accent perfectly and the rest of his "generation" is almost incinerated as "flawed". The whole reason something went wrong with the bad guy's plan is because the Echo generation of clones started to regain these memories, which caused them to move beyond their intended childlike level of intelligence and made them question their environment.
  • Oblivion (2013): All clones of Jack Harper seem to have this about loving Julia (at the least). The 49th Tech clone of Harper goes as far as to blow himself (and the Tet) up to keep her safe, while the 52nd clone (who gets distracted by Julia during his fight with the 49th) goes looking for her some time after meeting her, finally finding her on the last scene of the film.
  • The original cut of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace featured this: Nuclear Man is actually a clone of a previous Nuclear Man, and his knowledge of Superman and infatuation with Lacy are both inherited from the first.
  • A variation of this exists with the immortals in the Underworld (2003) films, where a vampire or a lycan can gain some memories of any other immortal he or she drinks from. Additionally, the fledglings experience some memories of their makers. Every time a vampire Elder rises from slumber, his or her predecessor orders his or her memory before passing it via blood as an update of sorts on the current events. Once Marcus becomes a hybrid, he can apparently clearly read any memory he chooses from blood, which is a skill even the Elders lack. Of course, this could be simply because he is the progenitor of all vampires.

  • Adventure Hunters: Despite its Nuclear Weapons Taboo, Nicholi didn't want his knowledge of golem crafting to go to waste, so he implanted it into the genetics of his family line. Regina is the latest link in this chain.
  • Animorphs:
    • In a near-death experience, Tobias starts having vivid flashbacks to the life of his father, Elfangor. He later mentions it to Ax, who says that Andalites used to believe in genetic memory but that it was long dismissed as superstition. What makes it weird is that it clearly has some genetic and some non-genetic component, as Tobias is not from a genetics perspective Elfangor's son and experienced memories that happened after he was born, but at the same time he was only able to access them while in the body of Elfangor's brother Ax, who is genetically his brother.
    • The Howlers also have a racial memory that allows them to remember every battle they ever won. Jake is able to access it when he morphs into a Howler, and the Animorphs "infect" it with memories that threaten to give the whole species a Heel Realization, forcing Crayak to eliminate the affected Howlers. Unfortunately for Crayak, the memory of Jake and Cassie kissing slips by him.
  • In the Arrivals from the Dark series, the Bino Faata and their Half-Human Hybrids occasionally experience vivid dreams that are based on the memories of their ancestors. They are able to move within the dream, but only to an extent that their ancestor has experienced (i.e., if the ancestor in question has not gone into a building, then his descendant can't go into that building in his dream).
  • In the short novel Before Adam by Jack London, the protagonist tells us his dreams of the life of one of his distant ancestor, an early hominid. He explains that these are genetic memories, and that the reason his are so clear and specific is he is a "freak". (He specifically denies they could be the result of reincarnation, and explains why.)
  • In The Call of the Wild, Buck occasionally has dreams of primitive humans and there are several references to his ancestors telling him how to survive.
  • Childhood's End: The alien Overlords, when they reveal themselves, are the very model of devils: leather wings, red skin, horns, tail. Everybody figures that they are in fact the source of devil myths, through some encounter back in mankind's history remembered through racial memory. It then turns out to be an inverted case of the trope. The Overlords play a role in mankind's ultimate extinction, an event so traumatic for the humans of the future that the psychic backlash from it somehow echoes back into the past.
  • Children of Time: The spiders have this, thanks to the brain-altering virus that uplifted them. Certain knowledge and skills, called Understandings, are tied to particular sequences in their genome. In their early days, these were valuable items of trade that were exchanged by mating, so that their offspring acquired them; later, the spiders developed advanced biotechnology that allowed them to isolate Understandings and inject them directly into their brains, turning them into Instant Experts on any subject on demand.
  • Codex Alera: Though it's never explicitly stated, the Vord appear to have this. At the very least, the Vord Queen knows exactly what she is, what her purpose is, and how to use all her abilities despite never having met a single other member of her species since hatching that wasn't one of her own offspring. Later on, she occasionally references events from the ancient history of the Vord as though she were there, even though that would be impossible considering her youth.
  • Averted in The Demon Headmaster. The genetics-themed entry in the series ends with the death of the villainous Headmaster, with a hint that a clone of him will be regrown. The fact that said clone does not have the original's memories is acknowledged in the following novel (the Internet-themed one).
  • In The Descent, a subterranean hominid species known as the Hadal are capable of inheriting genetic memories from previous generations. In one scene, a deceased Hadal also passes their consciousness and memories to a human's body through an electrical signal transmitted by touch. It is implied that this is how the Big Bad, Satan, has survived since the beginning of humanity.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
    • The New Series Adventures novel Wetworld had the whole idea of RNA being used for memory storage. Justified/Lampshaded when Martha points out that the theory has been discredited, and the Doctor replies that he's sort of generalizing, as the creature in question has Bizarre Alien Biology that transfers memories through a substance sorta-like RNA, only not.
    • Race memory is discussed in the novelisation of Doctor Who and the Silurians, with some humans suffering a mental breakdown after confronting them.
    • In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels Time Lord "biodata" (first mentioned in Arc of Infinity as being something like a genetic record) is a complex spacetime event encoded onto the Gallifreyan equivalent of DNA — not just "biological data" but "biographical data".
  • "Does a Bee Care?": A Starfish Alien has been left on Earth, and its ability to hide among the humans and "inspire" them to build a rocket to outer space works entirely by instinct. Kane doesn't know how he even does this stuff, it just comes naturally to him. He even "remembers" where home is.
  • Some kender in the Dragonlance novels believe that they have a kind of racial memory that will let them dredge up information about a place on the basis of other kender having wandered there in the past. It's uncertain whether or not this is true, but when Tasslehoff Burrfoot tries to use this ability on a scorched wasteland, he immediately discovers that it's the town he lives in, in a Bad Future.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, fire lizards (the genetic ancestors of dragons) have a way of remembering things that happened far, far in the past for which genetic memory is one possible answer. Groups of fire lizards can transfer entire sets of memories to each other psychically, and large groups of them can also communicate in a similar manner with humans. There are other possible answers, as they're also psychic with an implied hive mind, and can teleport through space-time.
  • Dune:
    • The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers are capable of calling upon their genetic memories with the aid of extensive training to control and be aware of their own metabolism, and the use of a highly potent awareness enhancing drug. They are somewhat limited, since the training of the Bene Gesserit leaves them with a mindset which prevents them from accessing the memories of their male ancestry. The drug also kills anyone without the training to alter it within their body. The Bene Gesserit thus initiated a breeding program over ten thousand years to create a man who could access the full memories of his entire ancestry. They succeeded in both Paul and Leto II, but things didn't go as they had planned.
    • Gholas, essentially the corpses of dead people brought back to life by Tleilaxu science, are memory-less but the Tleilaxu learn in Dune Messiah that a strong trauma can restore their memories. That's reasonable, but later this even works for clones, and reaches its ultimate heights in Heretics of Dune when a clone of Duncan Idaho gains the memories of every other clone that's ever been made of Duncan Idaho. In Chapterhouse: Dune, the Bene Gesserit gain the technology to make their own Gholas and bring back Miles Teg to lead their army, not only are his memories awakened, but so are the special abilities he gained in the previous installment.
    • Even without being able to access them directly, all of humanity possesses a subconscious version of this. It was Leto II's goal to teach humanity "a lesson their bones would remember", essentially that the need to expand and seek frontiers would be built in through latent genetic memory.
    • According to the prequel novels, the first person to be able to recall memories of ancestors was not a Bene Gesserit but Norma Cenva, the misshapen daughter of a Sorceress of Rossak. After an interrogation by the Cymeks triggers her latent (extremely powerful) Psychic Powers, the mental blast not only fries every Cymek in the vicinity but also disintegrates her own body. Her consciousness manages to rebuild her body atom-by-atom based on the best features of her female ancestors whom she could suddenly remember. However, she does not found the Bene Gesserit school and instead becomes the first Navigator after allowing her body to mutate (she previously maintained it with her powers). The person who becomes the first Reverend Mother is Raquella Berto-Anirul, Vorian Atreides's granddaughter, who is poisoned by a Sorceress of Rossak but is somehow able to turn the poison into a Super Serum in her body. It takes her a long time to re-create her experiment, in order to replenish the ranks of the dying Sorceresses with new Reverend Mothers (different abilities).
  • Earth's Children: In the original Clan of the Cave Bear, the Neanderthals were portrayed as having racial memories, which was supposed to both make up for their lack of verbal skills and imagination and keep them socially and "technologically" stagnant.
  • The alien symbiotes in Eden Green resurrect their hosts no matter how extreme the injury. In the case of total head destruction, they attempt to reconstruct the brain, with... mixed results.
  • The Flight Of Dragons quotes a theory that dragons are based on race memory of dinosaurs, saying that it doesn't seem likely to project something so specific all the way back to the earliest mammals, but that if there were actual dragons in, say, the Bronze Age...
  • Inverted in Good Omens, as it's suggested that Agnes Nutter could "remember" things that were going to happen to her descendants. This explains why her prophecies, though unfailingly accurate, tend to focus on things that affect her family, even if they don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. (She predicted a house collapsing in a small English town, but not the Kennedy assassination the same day.)
  • The Host (2008): The Souls have a form of this, though given the way they reproduce, it kinda makes a vague sort of sense.
  • Hothouse: The brains of the future humans contain records of the entire human species' history, stretching back to the present day and far into prehistory. These is normally buried too deep for them to recollect, although a species of symbiotic brain-fungus can access them if it bonds with a human. This ends up putting the fungus in the position of being the first creatures in a billion years to live in more than just the moment, granting it recollection of the past and a sense of perspective and time that no other creature in the world-jungle has.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: One of the alien lifeforms has a literal genetic memory, in that the parent passes on the rapidly changing hunting methods of its main predator to the offspring, which receive no parental care and fend for themselves as soon as they emerge from their egg-equivalent.
  • In the Jackelian Series book The Rise of the Iron Moon, Purity dreams of a long-ago ancestor.
  • Journey to Chaos: When Mr.15 injected his blood into Zettai she gained all his knowledge about Bladicraft. Then she lost it when Basilard expelled Mr.15's blood from her. Then he makes her gain Bladicraft knowledge through study and practice.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: When Benji awakens his latent dragokin powers, this is the explanation for why he immediately knows how to use them; his mom passed on skill as well.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Englishmen apparently created the game cricket out of distorted racial memory of the Krikkit Wars. It wasn't just the name, either. The white-clad Krikkiter robots preferred to throw spherical bombs by hitting them with sticks, and destroyed a symbol of galactic unity comprising two bails balanced on three pillars (the Wikkit Gate). While pretty much every race has this memory manifest somehow, the fact that humans turned it into a game was not received very well by the galactic community.
  • In Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future, Homo mensproavodorum evolves genetic memory thousands of years after its ancestor, Homo sapiens sapiens, has died out. Also a bit of a deconstruction, as reliance on hereditary memory does have its limitations in a changing world: the first hominid to possess this capability travels for hundreds of miles in search of a lush woodland she "remembers", only to find that it's been reduced to a forest of dead, leafless trunks; it's the wrong time of year, too. But the source of fresh, clean water is still there.
  • In The Mask of Circe, one of Henry Kuttner's novels, the hero (who lived in the 20th century) had achieved the memories of his ancient ancestor — Jason (the mythologic character) through some kind of science experiment.
  • Headies (highly intelligent psychic dog-like aliens) in the Noon Universe have this naturally.
  • The central character in Piers Anthony's Orn is a large omnivorous flightless bird, which is less intelligent than a person but has genetic memory going back to the earliest vertebrates.
  • Even though they don't have DNA to pass on, demigods in Percy Jackson and the Olympians often inherit phobias inspired by their divine parent's negative experiences; children of Ares are afraid of jars, children of Athena fear spiders, etc.
  • In Planet of the Apes, the ape scientists in the Encephalic Section access the memory of several humans in an experiment on one woman.
  • Der Schwarm features a sea dwelling hive mind of single cell organisms known as the Yrr. It is suggested that the Yrr remember events from millions of years ago either by actively coding memories into their DNA or membranes/proteins or by acting somewhat like a huge brain, i.e., defective cells within the neural network are constantly replaced with new cells which are given information from other neural network cells that have yet to be replaced in order to maintain memories.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • The Tholians in the Star Trek Novel 'Verse. Encoded in their crystalline molecules is every memory of their people, dating back to the first moment of sapience. Many are buried deep, of course, not generally available to a given individual unless they're brought to the fore by powerful emotional or psychic triggers. Due to the short lifespan of members of many Tholian castes, memories and experience are often "uploaded" to the next generation from the pool of ancestral memories. This is one reason why Tholians hold grudges for an uncomfortably long time — the memories are fresh in their minds for generations.
    • In the novel Spock's World, McCoy mentions getting a Vulcan RNA transplant, which allows him to understand the language better than the universal translators.
    • In The Final Reflection, a Klingon character is offered the chance to learn Terran via RNA transfer (strongly implied to have been extracted from a captured Federation member).
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Averted with clones who go through the Spaarti treatment. Going from nothing to a functioning adult in a year or less, they are indoctrinated or given the prime clone's memories through some kind of pre-decanting process which is never really described, but it's definitely not genetic. At one point, an Ithorian who killed someone, a major taboo for his culture, felt guilty enough to make two clones, and when they appear briefly in a novel they're just that Ithorian's twin human sons, not at all like the Jerkass he killed. Clones are also not the same as the originals, Palpatine with his Body Surf notwithstanding. Timothy Zahn, a prominent writer, is on record saying that he might one day bring back a clone of Thrawn, but said clone will be fully aware that he isn't Thrawn, and might not have the same personality or genius. He'll also be aware of the crushing expectation everyone will have for him to live up to the original.
    • The 'verse does hold that some fears and likes are genetic — a couple of clones believe Jango was claustrophobic, for example, because they are, but that's a little less far-fetched than full-fledged memories. This was actually done as a joke when Jango is introduced in the movies and he bonks his helmet on a door frame the same way Stormtroopers do in the original movie (although this ends up being more of a funny coincidence, since it is later firmly established that Stormtroopers are not clones of Fett, but rather ordinary humans recruited/conscripted into the Empire).
    • In Galaxy of Fear: Clones, there is an impossibly quick method for producing clones and giving them the scanned memories of their templates (with the downside that, because they are so rushed, the clones are permanently in the emotional state the original was in at time of scanning and cannot distinguish fantasy from reality). Darth Vader was scanned and a drop of his blood spilled, and the resulting Darth Vader clone, looking for minions, found old cell samples at an abandoned Rebel base. Since the clones produced from those didn't come with mind scans, they weren't at all useful to him.
  • Ukiah Oregon involves an alien virus with this trait. The Ontongard and the Pack are both created with a complete set of memories from every prior member of that lineage.
  • The Wheel of Time has what is known as "the old blood", a phenomenon which results in people having their ancestors' memories and spontaneously shouting battle cries of ancient nations in a dead language. Mat Cauthon is has it particularly strongly. Some characters also obtain memories from their past lives or those of other people in ways unrelated to genetics.
  • Before the "RNA memory" theory was discredited, Larry Niven used it as a teaching device in his short story "Rammer" and its novel expansion, A World Out of Time.
  • In Year Zero by Jeff Long, the clones produced from religious relics dated to around the time of Jesus's death all have intact memories of their life prior to death, as does a Neanderthal clone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Andromeda episode "The Devil Take the Hindmost" has a race of people who have this. They are also pacifists because of this, as they know that if they fought in battle, then all their children would be born knowing the horror of war. When their planet is threatened by Nietzscheans, they face the possibility that they will have to fight, but one woman impregnates herself with Magog larvae who soon hatch and mature into full-grown beast men. Because of the genetic memory of their mother, they all had knowledge of her peaceful ways, giving them a stark contrast to regular Magog, who are bloodthirsty killers.
  • Blake's 7. In "City at the Edge of the World", an After the End society has a genetically-engineered race memory that compels them to gather at the eponymous Ghost City every 35 generations and attempt to get through a particular door. Turns out the door is a long-range teleport to a robot spacecraft traveling to another world with fresh resources. When the spacecraft arrives and the population are technologically advanced enough to get the door open, they can all travel through.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Invisible Enemy", The Doctor creates clones of himself and Leela, who have the memories of their originals. K-9 and the Doctor do explain that these clones are really more like a biological photocopy than proper clones, hence their shortened lifespans
    • In "Frontios", Turlough has bad BSOD when his ancestral memories of the bad guys come back.
    • The Wirrrn from "The Ark in Space" have racial memories.
    • By the late 20th century, humanity has genetic memories of Kronos, the being (or one of them) that destroyed Atlantis thousands of years ago. One of the scientists working on the Master's TOMTIT in "The Time Monster" recognised Kronos without ever seeing it before.
    • In the Whoniverse Primal Fears are usually rooted in genetic memory. Most every species fears the dark because that's where carnivorous shadows make their home. Humans have so many cautionary stories set in thick forests from a traumatic memory where a solar flare extinction event was averted by trees consciously sprouting over the entire surface of the Earth to shield all life.
    • In "Image of the Fendahl", the Doctor suggests that "the Fendahl fed into the RNA of certain individuals the instincts and compulsions necessary to recreate. These were fed through the generations till they reached Fendelman and people like him. [...] On the other hand, it could all just be a coincidence."
  • Farscape had a device that "twinned" the target, creating a duplicate that was perfect in every way. Exactly how it worked isn't precise — it have been a subatomic-particle-by-particle reconstruction rather than genetic memory — but the memory and personality were identical.
    • For some reason, the Scarrans believe that they can extract wormhole knowledge from an embryo in Aeryn's womb. The kid doesn't even have a brain yet. Give it a break.
  • Into the Dark: In All That We Destroy the latest Ashley clone starts remembering early ones being murdered somehow. Victoria, the geneticist who made them, has no idea how that's possible.
  • On The Invisible Man, human genetic memory is encoded in "memory RNA", but can only be accessed by someone with a Quicksilver gland in their head. This led to problems when Fawkes started to be affected by the memories of the gland's first owner.
  • Subverted in Jekyll, where the modern Mr. Hyde experiences a rush of memories from his alter ego, then unexpectedly flashes back to the ORIGINAL Jekyll in Victorian times and verbalizes this to the observing scientists. "Genetic memory doesn't work like that." "Of course not, maybe he's got something else. Something better."
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Re-Generation", the clone of Justin Highfield (who was created from the original's brain and nerve cells) can remember the original's death. While in his mother Rebecca's womb, he communicates with her, including sending her the original Justin's last memories, through an additional bundle of nerve fibres in her umbilical cord. The clone of Justin's father Graham likewise possesses the original memories while in Dr. Lucy Cole's womb.
  • Roswell also plays with this. The four hybrids in the series are in fact the clones of their previous selves: the king, the queen, the king's sister and his second in command. The aliens' original plan was for them to fully remember who they were, and went back to free their people. Of course, it backfired, since the hybrids emerged too young and with no memory of their home planet, their purpose here, or even their powers. Through the series, they do remember brief aspects of who they were, but they rarely seem to embrace it because they are afraid of what it meant to "be" somebody else.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The Goa'uld, a villainous species of parasitic worms, explicitly have this, and it is conscious: A Goa'uld queen chooses what memories she transmits to her children. In one episode where O'Neill learns of this, he asks if that includes remembering their conception, and then states that that's probably why all the Goa'uld are so pissed all the time. This is part of the reason why the Goa'uld are Always Chaotic Evil, since they aren't born Blank Slates and thus are not subject to Children Are Innocent. The other reason is the sarcophagus, an Auto Doc the Goa'uld use to extend their lifespan but also drives them insane over repeated uses; said insanity gets passed down in the genetic memory and then worsened by the offspring's own use of sarcophagi.
    • Several episodes deal with the concept of a Harsesis: a child of two Goa'uld-implanted humans. Such a child would be a human with the complete genetic memory of both Goa'uld lines, and a major threat to Goa'uld domination. One episode has Shifu, a Harsesis, explain the need to keep that part of him suppressed. He causes Daniel to mentaly live out a scenario where he gets some of these memories and slowly turns evil.
    • In "Prototype," a genetically-engineered human named Khalek is found in one of Anubis's secret labs. It turns out that Anubis combined the Harsesis concept with Nirrti's hok'tar research to create a host that would have Goa'uld genetic memories (and their "evilness") and have superhuman abilities such as telepathy and telekinesis. The ultimate goal was to create an army that would be able to ascend and kill the Ancients. Khalek however was intended as a way for Anubis himself to be resurrected, as he implanted him with his own memories.
  • In Stargate Atlantis the whale-like creatures native to the planet Atlantis is initially located on have genetic memory, and a form of telepathy. In one episode they attempt to warn the expedition of a solar storm that happens once every several thousand years by showing them their memories of the Ancients' experience with the last one, but there was evidently some data corruption over the generations as the Ancients they project speak high-pitched gibberish and it takes some time for the expedition to figure out what's going on.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "We'll Always Have Paris", Data and Geordi talk about the pseudo-scientific of this trope (specifically the believed role RNA plays in memory). It's possible most of the "scientific understanding" that allows this trope to prevail comes from this episode.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • An early episode has Odo wondering about his people, feeling that his strong sense of justice is a racial memory, giving him an idea of the kind of people they are. His people are in fact a group of brutal oppressors who often engage in genocide. That being said, they do have the ability to transfer information through touch, but it applied to his sense of order, not justice.
      • The episode where the crew finds an infant Jem'haddar includes the child spontaneously demonstrating complete language skills in a matter of hours. The doctor notes that it would be impossible for him to have learned that from simple observation, so it MUST be some kind of implanted genetic memory (the Jem'haddar were in fact created by genetic engineering). Apparently, in the Trek-verse, genetic memory is more feasible than advanced language learning.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Favorite Son", Harry Kim suddenly starts knowing things he shouldn't, such as that an alien ship is about to attack Voyager. It turns out he has the DNA of the alien Taresians, and his new knowledge comes from that DNA. Except that it turned out that it was an elaborate trap by the Taresians to lure Harry (and any other male they could get their hands on) in, to steal their life force. Without their tampering, Harry had about as much genetic similarity to the Taresians as we do to lizards.
    • Zigzagged on Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Similitude""; Phlox cloned Trip, and the clone had all of Trip's memories but this was not, strictly speaking, a clone but a symbiotic life form that absorbs memories with the genes but Phlox explicitly mentions human genetic memory as the reason he had Trip's memories.
  • This is precisely the main plot of the episode "Aubrey" in the second season of The X-Files. A female police officer that was adopted begins to remember and reproduce the slayings committed by a grandfather she never knew, who was a serial killer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arcana Unearthed: "Akashic memory" is a variation on this trope where one can access the sum of all knowledge of all humanoid beings, or maybe even of everything intelligent.
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi From Yuggoth, adventure "Sands of Time". Both the archvillain and the player characters experience an awakening of ancient genetic memories stored in their DNA.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has some creatures with this trait.
    • Dragons inherit a good amount of basic knowledge from their parents, which is why a day-old wyrmling can talk and is probably smarter than most humanoids. Through years of meditation and reflection, dragons can unlock deeper understanding, which helps them develop their sorcerous abilities. Dragons can also pass along edited instincts through their genes, so if a dragon researches a new spell its wyrnlings may be able to learn it too, and if some enemy nearly kills a parent its wyrmlings will know how to avoid that particular tactic.
      • Half-Dragons, Draconic Sorcerers and other creatures descendant from dragons also gain some benefit from this, mainly an inherent ability to speak and understand Draconic. Strangely zigzagged by the Dragonborn, who are not directly related to dragons.
    • The aquatic Eldritch Abominations known as Aboleths not only gain the memories of creatures they eat, they also inherit all of their parent's memories, so they possess a staggering amount of information at birth and two Aboleths can figure out how they're related based on how far back their memories diverge. The unsettling thing is that these memories stretch back eons, before later races' creation myths and even the advent of deities, to a time when the Aboleths reigned over an antediluvian world of boiling seas and cloud-choked skies.
    • The insectoid Thri-Kreen, or "mantis warriors," have racial memory which isn't readily available, but is awakened by some reminders, piece-by-piece. This includes necessary skills like their language, how to make construction material from saliva, typical designs based on this material like their signature throwing weapon, and other interesting things.
  • The advantage Racial Memory in GURPS is a vaguely defined version of this. In the Space book the weaker version is listed among the traits that a realistic alien could have.
  • Legacy Memory in Hc Svnt Dracones is a rare phenomenon where a Vector remembers bits of humannote  history. Experiencing a draw towards a lifestyle vaguely resembling ancient human behaviors, such as seafaring, working in the Ganymede frontier, or joining heavy combat units. Even then they tend to feel like something is "missing" from their lives.
  • Pathfinder: Tojanidas, a species of bizarre water elementals resembling chimeras of crabs and sea turtles, are a deconstruction of this trope. Each has access to all of its ancestors' memories going back several thousands of generations, and as a result there's very little novelty in a tojanida's life, as most new stimuli and activities will be things that it will remember having seen and done hundreds of times already. Most tojanidas live their lives in a perpetual state of ennui as a result. They almost revering ignorance and forgetfulness, as they reason that not remembering things will allow you to effectively experience more new events, and thus is the surest way to a happy and fulfilled life.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • One of the many implants that go into a Space Marine is the Omophagea, an organ that allows an Astartes to absorb some of a creature's memories by eating its flesh, particularly its brain. Another implant is the Progenoid Gland, the organ extracted on death to create a new batch of marine implants, which hosts an actual genetic memory (which is why they wait until death before extracting it note ).

      This is actually the curse of the Blood Angels chapter. Their Primarch suffered such a Cruel and Unusual Death at the hands of the arch-heretic Horus that the Blood Angels and their successors have developed a condition called the Black Rage, in which their soldiers have a chance of triggering the genetic memory of Sanguinius' final moments, driving them into an Unstoppable Rage as they forget their own identities. Such unfortunates are grouped into the Death Company and sent into the thickest fighting, and any who survive this battle are granted the Emperor's Peace afterward. Another problem is that the mere sight of the Talon of Horus, the Lightning Claw that Horus used to kill Sanguinius now wielded by Abaddon, is enough to send a Blood Angel into the Black Rage immediately.
    • All Orks are born with basic combat knowledge preprogrammed into their genetic code, allowing even the thickest Ork to build and maintain a Shoota, while their Oddboyz such as Doks and Meks have more specialized knowledge that grows through experimentation. Most of this doesn't take hold until in the presence of other Orks or their "teknology", however, so Feral Orks can go a bit off their rocker if they locate the abandoned equipment of the Waaagh! they're descended from.
    • The lesser Orkoids known as Snotlings have an animalistic intelligence that prevents them from running from something until it's way too late, such as an Big Mek's Shokk Attack Gun (which hurls Snotlings through the Warp into something/somebody else) but they have some sort of natural affinity to farm and raise the fungus and squigs that feed the bigger orks. As with other Orkoids, all of them are genetically designed to establish a fully functioning ecosystem to support a Ork "civilization" for war.
    • The C'Tan known as the Nightbringer caused so much death and terror in the galaxy's distant past that every single living thing (except the Orks) has inherited a fear of death, and is also why the most common depiction of death is the Grim Reaper.
  • Werewolves from Werewolf: The Apocalypse also did the whole "be so bad you are remembered genetically" thing. In their case, any normal human starts panicking horribly when they see a werewolf's war form, and is unable to remember what happened afterwards.
    • The Mokole (were-lizards who used to be were-dinosaurs) are specifically referred to as the "Memory of Gaia" and all of them have access to genetic memory dating back as far as the dinos (and their OLD other halves, a humanoid dino race that died out during the mass extinction). They can access the memories of either side of their lineage, regardless of whether those were the memories of Mokole individuals to begin with. These guys REMEMBER their ancestors guiding the evolution of mammals to produce something humanoid in order to replace their extinct other form (their bestial dino-side forms just kept evolving with other lizards, but they never used the old humanoid form anymore out of respect and grief).
    • Prometheans also have an abstract form of genetic memory in the form of the "Residual Memory" Merit. With it, they can draw upon skills favored by the body they occupy. 2e expands this out into "Azothic Memory," where every Promethean (except for the Extempore, who emerged from one-of-a-kind circumstances) can get glimpses of the memories of every Promethean who has ever completed the Pilgrimage. It's mainly the reason why most Prometheans know the Pilgrimage is possible on a subconscious level, but with skill, it can be delved into for greater knowledge.

    Video Games 
  • In Agarest Senki 2, all main characters after Weiss inherit Weiss' lost memories followed by his nightmares. Turns out, it's because they are all the same person right from the very beginning.
  • The premise of the Assassin's Creed series is that human beings have genetic memories that can be unlocked and viewed via a device called an Animus. The modern-day MegaCorp that developed the device is using it to locate powerful hidden artifacts by kidnapping people with important ancestors and forcing them to relive their past lives. The process has side-effects, however. Prolonged use causes a "bleeding effect" wherein users take on skills possessed by their ancestors and experience memories while not in the Animus, eventually resulting in insanity as they become unable to distinguish their own experiences from their ancestors'note . It is later revealed that genetic memory was deliberately programmed into humans by Those Who Came Before as part of a plan allowing them to communicate across time with the modern-day descendants of the Assassins.
    • Assassin's Creed: Revelations puts a twist on this: Since Desmond Miles' ability to view Altaïr's genetic memories ends with the conception of his second son, Altaïr's subsequent memories are viewed secondhand, by means of the Masyaf Keys that Ezio uncovers during the course of his adventure. So in this case it's a genetic memory of Ezio viewing the stored memories of Altaïr.
  • In a non-living example, Battlezone (1998) has the Bio-Metal, the "Bio" part was coined because it had the properties of DNA, allowing it to be stimulated to take on previous forms which justifies the Ridiculously Fast Construction for vehicles and buildings.
  • The "ghosts" in BioShock are explained as memories being passed around through ADAM. It started happening after the Little Sisters were deployed to collect loose ADAM from the dead. This becomes a much bigger plot point in the sequel.
  • Briefly brought up in Bloody Roar 2, where the Final Boss, Shenlong, is a clone of a character from the first game, Long. When the two confront each other near the end of Long's story, Shenlong starts on a Villainous BSoD when Long mentions a family member he lost long ago, and Shenlong recognizes her name for reasons he can't quite understand.
  • In Cubivore your cube is born with memories of a time when the wilderness spanned the world. And every time your cube goes to the mating grounds, he dies and you continue as one of his sons.
  • In the lore of EVE Online, the Intaki supposedly have this, though details are vague. In a process derived from their religious practices, called "Rebirth", the personality of a dying adult is transferred to a newborn. Today it's done with technology, from which came a lot of cloning tech. Spiritual leaders called "Idama" apparently/supposedly still do it the old way, and with training can access past memories.
  • The homunculi Irisviel von Einsbern and her daughter Illyasviel in Fate/stay night and prequel Fate/Zero share the memories and experiences of their 'blueprint' originator, Lizleihi Justizia von Einsbern, who lived over two hundred years ago; at times, this will manifest like an alternate personality (e.g. when Zouken met Ilya, who started to talk like Justizia) and is a plot point in both works.
  • Halo: The Forerunner Life-Shapers are eventually revealed to have had the ability to implant genetic memories of a sort that causes humans to act out certain behaviors and instincts even 100,000 years later. These are referred to as a "geas", and when one is activated by certain triggers (usually contact with Forerunner technology), the human instinctively is moved toward taking certain actions. This was formally introduced in the Expanded Universe novels, but the games as of Halo 4 have acknowledged it, and it provides a handy explanation for how humans are able to use Forerunner tech upon first picking it up, which has been present since the original game.
  • The Martians of Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams were a strikingly memorable example. In the first stage of life, their bodies grow as plants, and in the process they absorb knowledge of their dead ancestors through the common "ancestral soil". In fact, a Martian body grown elsewhere is more or less a (mental) vegetable.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The queens of the Rachni, a species of sentient insectoids, inherit all memories of their mothers.
    • It eventually turns out that the Protheans have Super-Senses that let them read the genetic memory of any creature they touch, and can even absorb this information by being in a room that someone was in, even if they haven't been there for months.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the angara, who are native to the Andromeda galaxy, believe in reincarnation, and one mission ends by you triggering memories of a previous life in an angara NPC; memories which are confirmed accurate when he then leads you to the mummified remains of his previous life. Milky Way biologists are baffled, but theorize that this trope is the explanation. However, the reverse explanation that the Black Box device used is actually storing the memories and it takes a relative to unlock it is also proposed.
  • Metroid:
    • In Metroid Fusion, the X Parasites can access the memories of the hosts they consume, using this to inform their decision-making. In Metroid Dread, this may be the reason why the X copy of Quiet Robe allows itself to be absorbed by Samus so she can escape the exploding ZDR. Since Quiet Robe obviously had strong memories of desiring to protect Samus, it may be that the X that consumed and copied him took on these sentiments.
    • It's implied that the clone of Ridley in Metroid: Other M has the memories of the original Ridley, thus he antagonizes Samus throughout the game.
  • In OverBlood, Milly (a clone) has all the memories of the original, justified because the husband of the original made her as a Replacement Goldfish.
  • It's an explicit part of Pokémon that you can use genetic memory to pass on moves from parent to child, potentially unleashing a level 1 mon with Hyper Beam on the world.
  • Dragon Quest Monsters: If you have Blazemost/Kafrizzle, you simply start out with Blaze/Frizz. You have to meet statistical requirements.
  • In Psychonauts, one of the patients in the abandoned insane asylum is Fred Bonaparte, the descendant of Napoleon, and currently stuck with said ancestor as a split personality. At one point Raz refers to it as a "genetic memory."
    However, given how much Napoleon is presented as a Theme Park Version, it's likely that this is more due to a combination of insanity and the strong psychic field generated by the area, not to mention Rule of Funny.
  • In République, Hope and the other Pre-Cals are eventually revealed to be living, breathing mass storage devices with the entirety of recorded human knowledge encoded in their DNA, with tons of room left for more data.
  • The Tzhaar of Runescape, being by far the most bizarre race in the game, give birth to children that have all the memories of all their ancestors. It's very important in lore as it's how they keep records of their history and retain knowledge of how their individual castes work.
  • The Dnyarri in Star Control 2. Although, their memory may just be a result of being in proximity to other Dnyarri, as they are telepaths. After all, who's to say that memories can't be instinctively psychically passed down through generations? At least, that's what we all want to think. The dialogue is explicit about them being stored in genes, assuming they weren't fabricated entirely. The writers should really leave us more elbow room to Fan Wank about Psychic Powers.
    • There's also the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah, who have a sort of racial memory, if one would believe what they say when you engage in dialogue with them with a Dnyarri on board. It'd seem both races of Ur-Quan have it, which explains why they were never able to get over Dnyarri enslavement once it was over; generations have passed but the memory is as fresh as if it had happened in their lifetime.
    • And the Mycon, although the accuracy of their memories seems to have been damaged in the hundreds of thousands of years their creators abandoned them.
  • In the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Fan Game The Jedi Masters, the Player Character recruits a younger clone of Kreia, The Exile's Evil Mentor from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords created from the hand she lost in the game's prologue. She has all of the original's memories except for things that happened around the time & after she lost the hand, and is seen as a vital piece of the puzzle in tracking down her former apprentice Revan.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, Darth Vader creates a series of clones of Starkiller, the protagonist of the first game. Vader becomes disappointed that he can't seem to make a clone that doesn't remember Starkiller's lover, Juno Eclipse, as the imprinted love causes them to rebel against Vader and The Dark Side. The Dark Side ending reveals an evil clone that has Starkiller's memories, but has absolute contempt for everything Starkiller loved.
  • This is what sets the soldiers of the titular battle force of Templar Battleforce apart from regular humans. It also serves as the in-universe justification as to why they are the only ones who can pilot their Powered Armor; it takes millions of hours of practice to learn to do it well!
  • Hieda no Akyu from Touhou Project literally has this for her special ability, which she then uses to record the history of Gensokyo. She is the ninth child of a line that goes back for roughly 1200 years, so the only person that recognizes her in any way is the character that created Gensokyo, Yukari Yakumo.
  • It's theorized by some that Gnomes in Warcraft universe have some form of genetic memory. They were originally created by the Titans to build and maintain their machinery and were later turned into organic creatures (along with Dwarfs and Vrykuls) by the Old God's Curse of Flesh. Several machines created by Gnomes are very similar to those found in ancient Titan complexes, suggesting they may have an innate ability to build such machines.
    • Or it could just be regular knowledge passed on through the generations. Gnomes lost the knowledge of their origins as titanic creations, but that doesn't mean they ever lost all of their technology and had to reinvent it from scratch. Gnomes seem to be much more interested in gizmos than history, so likely their educational system doesn't emphasize the latter so much.
  • In Wild ARMs XF, it's revealed that the Precursors programmed in all of their knowledge into general human DNA, including the Yggadrassil System, needed to keep Filgaia going.
  • In Xenogears, Fei and Elly are both the latest in the Single Line of Descent for each of their incarnations, and are explicitly said to have the unique ability to "encode memories in their introns". Furthermore, the potential to suddenly become the new Miang, memories and all, is inherent in every woman on the planet. Don't try and figure that one out.

    Visual Novel 
  • The Fruit of Grisaia: Prior to the start of the story, Matsushima Michiru received a heart transplant and subsequently found that she was now sharing her body with her donor's consciousness. In-universe, the closest anybody comes to explaining the phenomenon is "extreme case of genetic memory". Later games in the trilogy backtrack this somewhat and try to present it as a case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which would be somewhat more realistic... except that doesn't explain how Michiru was able to remember where her donor lived and who her donor's parents were, which are explicitly things she was never told.

  • The Cyantian Chronicles:
    • Downplayed. Neefla do not have genetic memory presay because the knowledge is imparted during the birthing process instead of conception but this is functionally the same: a newborn with an adult's experience. The lack of this is considered both a tragedy and a boone. While they lack years of knowledge, they have no preconceptions and are the greatest inventors and innovators of Neefla society.
    • The Rumuah who created the immigrant Cyantians also had genetic memories.
    • It's suggested that wolves of the Akaelae bloodline have this as well but they haven't displayed any unless dreams of running through the woods naked count.
  • Gifts of Wandering Ice: Elie carries alien memories in her mind. They reveal themselves from time to time in the form of painful, vivid reminiscences of the past triggered by the sight of ancient things. There is more to this: the conscience of the person to whom these memories belong is still alive in the girl's mind; it calls itself her "father" and makes attempts to take control of her body.
  • Homestuck: Doc Scratch theorizes that unusual genetics are the reason the Signless had visions of a peaceful troll civilization — Kankri's memories of Beforus were apparently literally in his blood.
  • Outsider: Pipolsid memories are stored chemically within their bodies, and are partly transferred to their offspring when these are budded off.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Amorphs, as the descendants of partially organic self-reproducing memory systems, can pass memories between each other at will, and in most cases a child will have at least some of their parents' memories and personality traits (though an amorph parent can also deliberately craft their child's personality to resemble someone they admire, even if that person isn't an amorph). One of the reasons Schlock is unusual is that he was 'born' without any of the memories of the two amorphs he formed from, only retaining the overwhelming self-preservation instinct from the two combatants.
    • In a more low-key example, the reason Legs is such a natural at Parkata Urbatsu is that her species is descended from avians, and she retains the instincts for flight even though her wings are vestigial.
  • Vexxarr claims that the Bleen race has ancestral memory stretching all the way back to when they were single-celled organisms. Among other things it's why they've never developed a religion (and possibly why they're all so crabby).

    Web Original 
  • The Creepypasta "Genetic Memory" (available in illustrated form in this video) makes the claim that this is the reason humanity finds certain features like pale skin, dark, sunken eyes, elongated faces, and sharp teeth so frightening — hence why so many horror icons possess one or more of these features. The story then asks what could have happened long ago that made seemingly all or most of humanity so afraid of these features...
  • The Entities of Worm possess memories of all previous generations in their lineage. They are able to share this knowledge with those of other lineages, one instance of which led to Eden's death.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Some argue the idea of biological instincts or Jung's proposed collective unconscious are a real-life toned-down example of genetic memory. That said, the details of said collective unconscious "memories" are debatable.
    • It's generally believed Primal Fear is the result of dangers our early ancestors faced, with humans experiencing a near-universal aversion to things like the dark, fire, snakes, spiders, and more. Even more niche phobias like trypophobia, the fear of irregular patterns of holes, is thought to have an evolutionary basis to make us avoid things like venomous animals or diseased tissue.
    • While theories about the inheritance of specific memories have been thoroughly disproven, some researchers have asserted that more general associations formed by previous generations can pass from generation to generation through the genome, with one famous study with mice showing that rodents trained to fear the smell of cherry blossoms passed on that fear to their descendants via epigenetic changes to their sperm. Another study of Holocaust survivors reinforces this, displaying that more recent traumas can be transmitted through genes as well.
  • Planarian flatworms were once thought to have genetic memory based on a certain experiment. One worm was taught to navigate a maze, then ground up and fed to a second worm. This second worm would then navigate the maze as well as the first with no practice. Though it ended up being subverted, as later experiments proved that the second worm was following a scent trail placed by the first worm; when placed in an identical but unused maze it showed no sign of the supposed genetic memory.
  • It takes the monarch butterfly several generations to travel to secluded areas of Mexico where they winter in a few specific groves of trees. It only takes one generation to return to the north, who follow the exact same path as their great great grandparents.
  • In some pseudo-scientific interpretations of The Bible (and many other myths), the story of The Flood is believed to be a latent memory of life before evolution on land. It's generally considered to be more probable that its actually tales of actual regular floods (i.e. a local flood in the Persian Gulf) which neighboring people passed down from generation to generation into folklore.
  • This article suggests that genetic memory is responsible for autistic savants. Though in this instance it's skills that are encoded in the genes rather than memories of events or facts.
  • A subtle variation: There are frequent stories by recipients of donor organs (particularly heart transplants) where they report taking on personality traits or habits of the deceased donor, such as acquiring a taste for the donor's favorite foods (even if it was something the recipient despised before the surgery).
  • Retro-viruses are an odd example as they don't pass their (metaphorical) memories on through their offspring but through their host. When a host is infected by a retrovirus, the retrovirus transcribes its RNA into the host which then produces DNA. If the host survives the disease, the virus is eliminated but the RNA that infected the host can stay in the victim's cells which is passed onto offspring. Generations later, the inactive RNA can be activated by any number of circumstances. These reactivated RNA strands can cause any number of physical and mental issues including schizophrenia. You could spend your entire life blissfully unaware of the dangerous genetic material in your RNA.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Racial Memories


Napoleon Bonapart

Fred Bonapart's genetic memory of his famous ancestor Napoleon manifests as an alternate personality.

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Main / GeneticMemory

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