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Lamarck Was Right

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Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: What I am saying is that basically, the inheritance of acquired traits change a species over time.
Georges Cuvier: And what I am saying is no, that is the stupidest thing anyone has ever heard of.

In The Golden Age of Comic Books, there were well established ways for a character to gain their powers: being bitten by a radioactive spider, doing years of Charles Atlas training, having a near-death experience, extensive mystic training, getting an artifact of great power, being disgustingly wealthy, and scores of other imaginative backstories. With the advent of the Silver Age onwards, these Golden Age heroes had children. Naturally, they inherited their parents' powers and heroic tendencies and many became legacy characters, through the sometimes magical agency of Superpowerful Genetics.

Um. Okay. We'll make that deal, for the sake of story.

Tough to see, though, how training is inherited, or how body-mods get passed on. Pretty good chance that any kid that Iron Man might have had would not have been born with rivets.

If the comic or show is rife with My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours, then the superkid will luck out and be at least as powerful as the strongest parent at the time of conception, and often radically more powerful. This can get interesting if a family has more than one kid, as each succeeding one gets stronger. This usually also applies to fighting skills; they'll be a prodigy black belt before they can walk. If the parent got their powers from a magical or technological artifact, they'll have "internalized" and passed on that item's power. To use a real world analogy: if your mom were an IT expert that always carried around a laptop, you'd have a Bluetooth connection in your head and know how to code a UNIX kernel from scratch.

Other times, if the parent got their power from a Freak Lab Accident involving Applied Phlebotinum, their children will all have that same power, regardless of whether it affected their DNA. This also applies to magic and telepathic powers. With Functional Magic the reason it's passed down will frequently be less biological than spiritual, so the usual rules need not apply. Another real-world analogy: If your dad were a food tester who developed a high tolerance for poison through controlled exposure, you'd have his high resistance and then some. This one is often retconned into a Meta Origin or Secret Legacy; for instance, maybe the accident didn't cause your dad's powers, it just unlocked the powers already in his DNA, and he passed the "unlocked" version on to you. This has the advantage of bearing a nodding resemblance to a real scientific phenomenon.

This trope is named for Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French naturalist whose theories (collectively we call Lamarckian evolution) inspired Charles Darwin and eventually led to modern Darwinian evolution. While very insightful, his theory of "Inheritance of Acquired Traits" incorrectly viewed the cause of evolution as the parents' learned self-improvements in life being passed on to their offspring. Giraffes had long necks because they kept stretching for higher branches over many generations, for instance. While this idea has become closely linked to Lamarck, it was not original to Lamarck, nor was it central to Lamarck's contribution to evolutionary theory. This sounds dumb to us, but this was not the case at the time, since genetic material had not been discovered yet.

There is a real world phenomenon known as the epigenome, that describes how the DNA expression if not actual DNA can be affected by environmental factors in the lives of ancestors. For instance, famines at certain stages in the lives of grandparents can adjust the rates of diabetes in the grandchildren. Hank Green briefly explains the relatively new field of epigenetics in this YouTube video. Another often overlooked possibility is gut bacteria, which are known to change in response to environmental factors and are passed from a mother to her baby at birth. But while this can affect stuff like heritability of IQ or the ability to metabolize milk proteins, it is unlikely to confer say, complex things such as your mother's encyclopaedic knowledge in engineering or your father's macaroni cooking skills. It might tend towards a better production of muscle/brain tissue or something like that, but skill itself is not biologically heritable.

Sub-Trope of Superior Successor. May be used to explain/justify Genetic Memory.

See also Evolutionary Levels and Superpowerful Genetics. Compare In the Blood for the morality version and Sexually Transmitted Superpowers when intimate partners gain superpowers from a super. Generation Xerox exaggerates this trope; the kids inherit more than just their parent's physical traits. Sub-Trope of All Theories Are True. Muggle Born of Mages is the subversion. Randomly Gifted is an aversion. Not to be confused with Morphic Resonance, despite it being the (pseudo)scientific name for this.


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  • Spoofed in a Little Caesar's pizza commercial wherein a "normal" human woman has married a mime. The mime never speaks and never takes off his costume or greasepaint. Their son, therefore, is literally half-human, half-mime - and the greasepainted side of his body literally cannot move its lips.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The eponymous power-granting brain parasite of Baoh the Visitor was artificially evolved through the use of a serum that causes Lamarckian evolution. Animals injected with the stuff are deliberately placed in extremely harsh environments, adapt to them, and pass on their adaptations to their offspring, then the next generation is injected and the cycle repeated until something interesting and weapon-ish is produced, leading to the Baoh worm and other rather random creations.
  • In Basilisk, it's frequently implied that ninja powers have been developed through selective breeding and are transmitted within a family line. For example, Shogen's little brother is almost identical to him even in abilities, while at one point Danjo mentions that Gennosuke inherited his Magical Eyes from his mother's family line.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z implies that Goten and Trunks can reach Super Saiyan at a young age because their fathers had achieved the level before the boys' birth; compare to Gohan, born before Goku ever became a Super Saiyan, and had to earn it the same way his father and Vegeta did. Akira Toriyama's official statement on the science behind Super Saiyan confirms Goten and Trunks were conceived after Goku and Vegeta became Super Saiyans. As a result, they inherited their fathers' heightened "S-cell" counts, while Gohan had to earn his the hard way (though it helps that he meets most of the requirements to develop S-cells on his own, just like Goku did).
    • Dragon Ball GT takes this to the extreme in the final episode by showing distant descendants of Goku and Vegeta (identical grandsons, actually) can achieve Super Saiyan without even realizing the significance of it.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, Goku's granddaughter Pan not only transforms into a Super Saiyan but does it while still in the womb.
  • In Historie, Eumenes is not only naturally intelligent, but he also inherited his natural fighting abilities from his true, Scythian parents.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Joseph was born with the ability to instinctively use the Hamon that his grandfather Jonathan had mastered, but without finesse or battle reliability of his ancestor. While Joseph's father George inherited no aptitude for the Hamon from Jonathan, Joseph's mother was trained in its use.
    • The potential to develop a Stand is genetic. Also, if someone already has a Stand when they have kids, their children will have a much easier time developing a Stand than normal. Developing a Stand without at least one parent who already has one is shown to be very difficult, with most examples shown in the series having some sort of supernatural catalyst such as the Arrow. Taken to its logical extreme in Part 8, where every single member of the Higashikata family has a Stand.
  • Lupin III: The Lupin dynasty. Arsène the First is the archetypical Gentleman Thief with all that that implies. Flashbacks show that his son Lupin II was awesome as well. Lupin III himself is a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass Kaitou. It continues in his illegitimate son (manga-Lupin only), who is incredibly cunning; he was able to outsmart Fujiko and hold his own against a sword while armed with only a wrench. Any attempts made by the police to capture these criminals tend to fail, usually embarrassingly.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro: The New Bloodline consist of people who consider themselves a new species of humanity, formed through the "evil intent" building up from one generation to another throughout centuries. The manga specifically namedrops the (obsolete) Orthogenetic Evolution theory that dictates that living beings could envolve towards a common goal "due to some internal mechanism or 'driving force'". As Sicks explains, his ancestor was the first person who forged a sword used to kill. Naturally, whoever was the most talented at creating murder weapons would inherit the family bussiness and would continue to improve their skills. Said skill would then pass onto the next generation. In the manga proper, Sicks is the CEO of an international arms manufacturing company... and "Absolute Evil" as far as anyone is concerned.
  • My Hero Academia not only plays this trope out completely straight, but it is even acknowledged as scientific fact that children will inherit one, or even a results-may-vary hybrid of both of their parents' powers (referred to as "quirks") in the same manner one might inherit their hair color or complexion. Bakugo inherited his explosive sweat from a fusion of his parents' quirks, while Todoroki, thanks to selective breeding, can use BOTH of his parents' quirks at will.
  • In Naruto, it is implied that the titular character's signature whisker marks were the result of his in-utero exposure to the chakra of the demon fox sealed within his mother at the time of pregnancy. This trope comes into play, however, when both of Naruto's own children are shown to have inherited these marks from him. Presumably, that exposure to the fox's chakra caused a genetic mutation in Naruto, which was passed on to his children. Though why the same thing didn't happen to Tsunade and her brother, who also had a grandmother who was the Nine-Tails' host, is not explained.
    • Later in the story, we find out that Tsunade personally remembers both her grandfather Hashirama and Madara, even though she was very little when they died and "died" respectively, which means that her grandmother did not become a jinchuuriki until after she was born, so there was no opportunity for either she or her parent to be influenced by it.
    • He inherited his mom's Verbal Tic "Datteba_" (which is also passed down to his son as well) despite Naruto never having even met Kushina (or more specifically, a chakra imprint of her in the Nine-Tails' seal) until he was 17 years old.
  • Averted in Parasyte—when the Ryoko Tamiya/Reiko Tamura asks Shinichi what he thinks her and A's baby will be, he admits he doesn't know. Migi correctly surmises that it will be an ordinary human—Parasytes replace their hosts' heads, but otherwise their bodies remain unchanged.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Adventures:
      • This is actually Gold's special ability. He can pass his will to an unhatched Pokémon. His Togepi turned out to be an avid gambler with a violent temper because its owner carried its egg around arcades and dreamed about it beating the crap out of Silver. His Pichu also turned out to be super-powerful and brave because he wanted to protect it and prove himself worthy of being a Dex Holder.
      • Ruby inherited his Gym Leader father's Pokemon battling skills (though they both say that Norman spent years drilling and training his son to hone his raw potential)
    • In Pokémon: The Series, it's been shown that Pokémon can see and hear through their eggs.
  • A manga-only story arc of Ranma ˝ introduces the Musk Dynasty, who use magic to bring about this precise effect. Generations ago, the Musk's ancestors wanted to become the greatest masters of the various "Animal Styles" of Kung Fu. So they settled in a valley near Jusenkyô, captured animals, cursing them in the Spring of Drowned Girl, locking them in that form, and having kids with them to pass the animal traits on to the children. It seems to have worked; Herb, a dragon-blooded, is an incredibly powerful ki user, the tiger-blooded Lime is a Mighty Glacier and wolf-blooded Mint is a Fragile Speedster.
    • The final manga arc takes this even further. There is another Jusenkyô, but it's so high up in the mountains that only birds could fly high enough to drown in it. The magic of these springs would, normally, change anyone who fell in into the birds that drowned there, like the ground-level Jusenkyô does, but the mountain one was used as a regular source of water by a nearby tribe. Having used magical water for everything —cooking, laundry, presumably bathing— transformed the people over several generations, so now all members of the tribe are born with giant, flight-capable wings, talons, and avian instincts, and pass these traits on to their children. (It's also implied they're oviparous.)
  • Subverted in Rave Master. Near the end of the journey, Musica learns that Haru needs a new final form of the Ten Powers sword forged, but with the elder blacksmith Musica out of commission, he decides to see if this trope is in play and forge one himself. Unfortunately, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and he ends up wasting a lot of needed material trying to learn how to blacksmith under a time crunch. He does pull it off, but he needs to use his own powers to do so.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: We never get to see it in the manga, but according to the author, Kenshin's son, Kenji, masters the Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū style of kendo all by himself, without having ever seen it and figuring it out from mere descriptions, because his father refuses to pass it down to him. (On the other hand, Kenshin was a genius swordsman who mastered his school of swordplay except for the two ultimate techniques at the tender age of 15, and again according to the Word of God Kaoru's ability would, in real life, put her on par with the nation's best kendo masters, so it's possible that this is more of a case of In the Blood.)
  • In Shaman Warrior, the titular shaman warriors are created by an occult Super Serum naturally their abilities are passed on to their children.
  • UQ Holder! has Negi's grandson Touta awakening Magia Erebea out of nowhere, even though Negi almost died learning it from Evangeline. It's eventually revealed that Touta is actually a hybrid clone of Negi and Asuna, having inherited their respective magics (Magia Erebea and Magic Cancel) through genetic engineering.

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    Comic Books 
  • Avengers Academy character Finesse has the same powers as Taskmaster, who gained them by special serum, and it's implied she might be his daughter. When the two of them meet, she directly asks him about it, only for it to turn out that a drawback of his powers is the loss of his non-combat-related memories, so he has no damn idea.
  • Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl, is the daughter of Lady Shiva (the world's deadliest martial artist) and David Cain (one of the world's greatest assassins). Accordingly, Cassandra is an unbelievable martial arts prodigy even by comic book standards. Some of this can be attributed to the Training from Hell Cain put her through, but prior to The Reveal about Shiva, he notes that he put other kids through the same regimen and it didn't take. She was the only success. "Not surprising, really..."
  • Man-Bat gained bat-themed powers artificially but his daughter inherited them. When consulted about this, Batman was skeptical, and explicitly said that acquired characteristics can't be inherited (despite the number of times that exactly that has happened in the DCU).
    • The "Battle For The Cowl" miniseries/crossover began to fix that. Another villain points out to Langstrom that it's impossible for a mix of common chemicals to have that effect, that the formula was a psychological crutch for the activation of Langstrom's innate superpowers. Indeed, in that same issue, he transforms without the formula and kept control (to a degree). Apparently it depends on the writer; Talia al-Ghul steals the formula a year later and uses it create an army of ninja Man-Bats.
  • In the second Batman / Alien crossover, a Mad Scientist creates hybrids between the xenomorphs and Batman's Rogues Gallery. The hybrids somehow contrive to still look like their human counterparts despite it making no sense whatsoever, like the Two-Face one having half its skull damaged, the Joker one's skin looking like clown makeup, and the Scarecrow's face looking like his mask. The only one who doesn't look human at all is the Killer Croc hybrid (and this turns out to be the scientist's downfall because where the other hybrids had some of her (and her dormant queen chestburster's) DNA and thus didn't attack her, the Croc hybrid didn't and ate her on sight).
  • Captain America received his powers (physical attributes at the absolute peak of human perfection) from a shot of the Super-Soldier Serum; after that, the serum was tested on black soldiers, and of the initial test subjects, only Isiah Bradley survived, gaining the peak physicality. Bradley's son, Josiah, inherited the Super Soldier Serum effects from his father. He uses the name Josiah X in his hero career. Bradley's grandson, Elijah Bradley, gets seriously injured when the Skrulls attack New York, and after a blood transfusion from his grandfather, gained the traits of Captain America. This is somewhat better than the standard explanation.
    • In The Ultimates, Cap's son inherits superpowers. The son, however, appears to be better with them than Cap ever was, mostly because of training from a young age.
  • The DC Universe character Doomsday was created deliberately through a brutal process of Lamarckian evolution, which entailed being stranded on the Death World of ancient Krypton, as shown in Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey. When the baby Doomsday was inevitably killed, DNA from the corpse was harvested and used to engineer a clone. This was repeated over and over, until Genetic Memory made Doomsday increasingly powerful, resulting in the Ultimate Lifeform... which has been traumatized into being a fear-inspired Omnicidal Maniac, causing it to destroy first its creator, then countless other civilizations afterwards.
  • Two FlashesWally West and Barry Allen — have had children, and in both cases, the children have inherited the speed powers. It's a Speed Force thing or something. It's even bred true to both of Barry's grandkids.
    • Indeed, Barry Allen's grandson's half-brother also has speed powers, although neither of his parents ever did. Also, as the son of Captain Boomerang, he's inherited his father's knack for using boomerangs as offensive weapons. And as of Blackest Night, his father's terrible decision-making skills.
      • On the other hand, Owen and Bart's mother, Meloni Thawne, is a descendant of Barry's twin brother, Malcolm Thawne, as was Eobard Thawne, AKA Professor Zoom, which suggests that the Barry Allen bloodline has a genetic predisposition toward speed, rather than a Lamarkian outgrowth from Barry's.
      • Which can further be explained by the fact that Barry Allen might have been the creator of the Speed Force, and so anybody else in his bloodline will have a higher chance of inheriting speed-based powers. Barry's powers themselves are an ontological paradox, as it's been stated in the comics that he went back in time, turned into a bolt of energy, and struck the chemicals which gave him superspeed.
  • Subverted in the Dynamite Comics published Gargoyles series. Genetically modified mutates Derek and Maggie have a baby together. But when the child is born, it's revealed that none of the alterations to his parents' DNA passed on to him, leaving him as a completely ordinary human.
  • Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, had a daughter called Jade, who naturally had all the powers of his ring, and occasionally her mother's plant powers as well. He also has a son who has darkness-related powers, which are explained as Alan having been exposed to "Shadowlands energy" during a fight with a demon. This was later retconned to being derived from the part of Alan's mystical power source that consists of dark magic. Oh, and they have a Sibling Yin-Yang situation from a combination of this and their mother having an evil split personality, with each one taking after one of her personalities.
  • From The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Banner had three children post-Hulk. His daughter Lyra has green skin and some super-strength but averts the trope because she was created via genetic engineering. His son Skaar is able to become a Hulk himself, while his twin Hiro-Kala appears to have inherited nothing of the Hulk (implying they're likely fraternal twins).
  • While not really offspring, The Joker "Jokerizes" scores of supervillains in The Last Laugh storyline. He does this via an Evil Plan that infuses everyone with his DNA, turning their skin white, hair green and giving them Joker's sense of humor and making them loyal to him. How this works when the Joker's skin and hair color is not due to any sort of genetics but his skin and hair being permanently bleached from (in the usual backstories) falling into a vat of chemicals is not explained.
    • For that matter, how does being "loyal to him" qualify as one of the traits in Joker's DNA? He's chaos embodied, the polar opposite of loyalty.
    • Similarly, a Batman vs Aliens comic featured a mad scientist infusing xenomorphs with the DNA of Batman's villains. Not only did one of them develop white skin and red lips, another developed scarring on the left side of its head (as per Two-Face, caused by acid burns and thus even less plausible; Joker's traits could at least be handwaved as saying the unspecified chemicals mutated him) and a third somehow acquired the colouring of Scarecrow's costume.
    • The "Mad Love" comic played with this trope when Harley Quinn had a number of Imagine Spots about her and the Joker getting married and raising a family. Their two kids (a girl and a boy) have permanently whitened faces, though it is unclear if they were born this way or if their parents made them up to look like themselves (the latter of which is arguably just as creepy). One image showing Harley giving birth to the children implies that they are bleached coming out of the womb - but Harley herself, who has been stripped down to her bra, also has white skin by this point, suggesting that the Joker wants his entire family Jokerized and painted the babies as soon as they emerged from Harley's womb (though in the picture he's more concerned with murdering the doctors and nurses by handing out exploding cigars to celebrate).
  • Judge Dredd averts this. Joe and Rico Dredd were cloned from the original Chief Judge, Eustace Fargo, to be the ultimate law enforcers. While they succeeded with Joe Dredd himself, Rico ends up as a Lawman Gone Bad, running his own criminal operations before Joe sends him to Titan. Dredd himself has been cloned and, aside from the second Rico, none of them have really worked out; Kraken ended up being manipulated into causing the Necropolis by the Dark Judges, Nimrod suffered from serious neurodegenerative issues caused by genetic modification and had to be put down, Dolman just upped and quit despite showing promise, and Paris ended up pregnant.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The children of characters having similar powers are usually explained as "mutants" of some kind due to their progenitors' exposure to the weird. For example, Franklin Richards; both his parents were altered by cosmic rays and became empowered. However, taking the cake is probably Rachel Summers, daughter of Jean Grey, who was a mutant of impressive power and a wielder of the Phoenix Force. While it now makes sense, sort of, when she was first introduced, the Phoenix Force was a power that came to beings and could even leave them, as opposed to being a permanent change. Somehow, Rachel inherited that. Being the White Phoenix kind of was Jean Grey's mutation for a while, but not quite, so it almost makes sense, but somehow falls short. Apparently the Phoenix (which is a sentient entity in its own right) just likes fusing with members of the Grey-Summers lines.
    • This actually became a plot point in the End of Greys arc in the mid-2000s, when the Shi'ar Death Commandos slaughtered the entire Grey family on the assumption that there was a predisposition to hosting the Phoenix in the family - something which came back during Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire and 2013's X-Men run, when Rachel met the Shi'ar responsible for the idea and pointed out how the Phoenix Five (and for that matter, Hope Summers) demonstrated that that idea was rubbish.
      • However, it is worth noting that the Shi'ar did have some reason to believe that the Phoenix followed bloodlines. It did at least like the Grey bloodline, as it had fused long term with both Jean and Rachel, and their main prior experience with the Phoenix was the bloodline of Rookshir, whose descendants could all wield the Blade of the Phoenix (his BFS with the remnants of Phoenix fire from when he wielded it) - in fact, they were the only ones who could. Then the latest descendant, Korvus Rookshir, a reluctant Boxed Crook, got one hell of a surprise when Rachel performed a Barehanded Blade Block and nicked an echo of the Phoenix. However, it isn't exactly unknown that the Phoenix doesn't just stick to one family.
    • Kara Killgrave (a.k.a. Purple Girl, Persuasion, Purple Woman), the daughter of Zebediah Killgrave, the infamous mind-controlling supervillain (and ex-Cold War spy from what was once Yugoslavia) Purple Man, is another case, as she is an X-gene mutant who developed the exact same superhuman pheromone powers as her father, right down to his purple skin. That's despite the fact that he was supposed to be a non-X-gene mutate who only got his powers because he was hit by a rapidly-escaping experimental bioweapon nerve gas.
    • This was later explained via a retcon in a 1997 storyline in X-Man of all places , when the Purple Man secretly manipulated the mutant superhero (and dystopian alternate-universe survivor refugee) Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man into becoming his unwitting pawn by raising his already god-like power-levels (through Purple Man using his powers so Nate could suddenly become New York City’s latest flavor-of-the-month favorite celebrity) even further so Nate could literally resurrect the Purple Man’s long-dead family (his first wife and children who were killed during the real-life Balkan Wars when their home country Yugoslavia collapsed into warring states). Nate Grey learns about the former, and is enraged because he hates being manipulated. Killgrave tries to calm him and convince him to be his ally by revealing his deepest secret: that he is actually an Mutant as well, and the gas that supposedly mutated him only awakened his own latent powers. Now, he could simply be lying (it was never mentioned elsewhere), but Nate was rifling through his brain and didn't deny this. On the other hand, he was mostly preoccupied informing Killgrave just how screwed he was and that his real motives were far less noble.
      • Likewise, Mimic was also once considered to be a non-X-gene mutant (at least in the main Reality-616-universe) due to getting his powers after exposure to an experimental bioweapon gas but was ultimately confirmed via datapage in Jonathan Hickman's X-Men to indeed be a latent X-gene mutant.
    • Scorpion (Camilla Black) was designed based on the original plan that she was the daughter of Viper (Madame Hydra). To show she was Viper's daughter they gave her naturally green hair. As Viper's hair is dyed, instead, they ended up with Monica Rappaccini (AIM's Scientist Supreme) as her mother, who Depending on the Artist also has green hair. It's later revealed that her father might be Bruce Banner, who apparently fathered her immediately after the incident that created the Hulk, but she lacks any kind of Hulk traits beyond being low-key radioactive. However, this is not because of his DNA, but rather that Monica altered her DNA in the womb as part of an experiment to make her the perfect sleeper agent, and all her powers come from that.
    • Darwin's mutant superpower is to evolve whatever power or body change he needs to survive in a given situation.
  • Nexus: Scarlet and Sheena Hellpop inherited their father's fusionkasting powers, even though his abilities were given to him by the Merk, and were also periodically taken away.
  • In PS238, the Captain Ersatz version of Green Lantern, Emerald Gauntlet, has an emerald gauntlet that inexplicably appeared on his arm during an experimental flight. He apparently never took it off, and it became part of his DNA, with his own son, Kevin, having one from birth. (The Gauntlets can be removed and put back on, but with about the same effect as tearing off a limb and reattaching it.)
  • In Ultimate X-Men, Wolverine's son not only inherited his exact powerset but also the ability to coat his bones in metal in an apparent emulation of his father's artificial enhancement.
  • What If? v2 #114 had the heroes getting trapped in Battleworld after the events of Secret Wars (1984), settling down and having children. All the kids have combinations of their parents' powers and traits; Captain America and Roguenote  have a daughter who has strength, flight, and is a natural leader, while Human Torch and Wasp's son has Hot Wings and fire projection (but only when he's shrunk) and is a smartass.
  • Double Subversion with Wildcat II, the son of Wildcat. Wildcat is a superb fighter with no other powers. His son isn't so great at it. On the other hand, after the father spent a lifetime of dressing up in a catsuit, the son can turn into a Catboy. As it turns out, his powers really are inherited - his mother was a werepanther, so it's just an amusing coincidence that his power connected with his old man's gimmick.
  • Wonder Woman villainess Circe once turned herself into a Manchurian Agent named Donna Milton to get past Wonder Woman's Living Lie Detector powers. In this identity, she got pregnant (by Ares) and had a daughter named Lyta. When "Donna's" real identity finally came to light, Lyta's appearance actually changed to match Circe's, most obviously with the purple hair. She also inherited some of her mother's magical ability.
  • The Zenith series in 2000 AD relied on this. The main strand of superhumans in the story were able to pass on their superpowers to their offspring. Their powers originated in a wartime experiment where pregnant women were injected with ergot alkaloids. The resulting children's superpowers were mentally derived, you see, and kicked in when the children hit puberty.

    Fan Works 
  • Besides the Will of Evil: The ability to use magic works this way. All species start out with a limited ability to use magic, but as individuals practice and learn to cast more powerful spells, their growing talent impresses itself in their genes and passes on to their children. So, a powerful sorcerer would birth children with great magical potential, and if those children spent their lives practicing magic their children would be more powerful still. The longer a species has practiced magic, the more powerful its average magic users are.
  • Better Bones AU: Shadowsight inherits his grandmother Poppyfrost's red eyes despite Poppyfrost not being born with them but having her eyes change color after being rescued from death.
  • Played for Laughs in Candy For Your Thoughts?, where the alien clone of Cody has an increased role. Apparently Cody's DNA makes him an instant pervert, with a particular attraction to Courtney, since she's Cody's Love Interest for this story. He even finds himself obsessed with bras, despite not knowing what they are. Also, he instinctively hates Duncan and Sierra.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Played straight and justified (mostly) with Steve's great-granddaughter Carol inheriting his abilities on the grounds that the serum alters DNA and all she needed was a kick in the genetic pants for that potential to kick in. It should also be noted that before said kick in the genetic pants occurred, she was just a shade above normal, given that it's been diluted over the past few generations.
    • Harry, meanwhile, actually subverts this in that he doesn't inherit his father's Weather Manipulation abilities, instead specialising in fire magic and Psychic Powers, the latter of which he definitely inherited from his mother (in the former case, her own proclivities may or may not have had something to do with it). Also, possibly from the Phoenix Force, which Lily invoked to provide his protection. He also picked up a number of her mannerisms and aspects of her personality, which are speculated to be based on subconscious memories - he even starts to look a little more like her as he gets older, rather than a green-eyed younger clone of his father's James Potter form. That said, as time goes by, he starts to take after his father more and more in terms of Super-Strength, but that's just because he's half-Asgardian - overall this trope is generally played realistically.
  • In Season 2 of the J-WITCH Series, we see that in addition to his powers inherited from Shendu, Drago has some power over Quintessence from his mother's side of things, if not nearly to the same extent as her or even Will.
  • Discussed and subverted in the The Avengers (2012) fic "Without the Usual Cost of Labor". Mad scientists get their hands on Steve and Natasha's genetic material, hoping to create some kind of super-soldier. The ensuing completely normal, and Bruce outright mocks them for never having read past Lamarck.
    Tony: Six thousand years of Jews, they're still getting circumcisions.
    Thor: What is circumcision?
    Bruce: Just because something happens to a parent, like losing an arm or, uh, taking a super serum, doesn’t mean the offspring has that trait.
    Clint: Thanks for explaining that without resorting to penises.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Somewhat related instance in Alien: Resurrection, where centuries after the third movie, scientists clone Ripley, complete with the parasite infecting her when she died. However, the failed clones make it evident that the Xenomorphs invade their hosts at a genetic level which was already implied in the last movie. Bonus points for the Xenomorphs' "genetic memory" which allows Ripley to remember her past life, though she does have other problems. Considering that the screenwriter was instructed to include Ripley's character in the film, this all comes off as remarkably plausible for a science-fiction action movie.
  • Likewise, in August Rush, the titular character is a musical prodigy whose biological parents were both musicians. Now, musical aptitude can be inherited. Not prodigy-level, but...
  • The Boondock Saints:
    • The brothers are extremely skilled at using firearms; but no mention is made of them having formal or informal military/firearms training. Their father is just as gun-crazy and vigilante-minded, but spent the entirety of his sons' lives in jail. It is lampshaded in the second movie when the Big Bad comes right out and states that killing runs in their blood.
    • While it is never explicitly stated that the McManus brothers have had any specialized training, the first movie hints strongly that they were given some sort of training at their mother's insistence (this is explicitly stated regarding their polyglotism), as well as hinting strongly at ties to Irish Republican organizations. The second movie does invoke this trope, but it's a fairly weak example in context.
  • In A History of Violence, Viggo Mortensen's character Tom Stall has the titular violent history along with wicked underhanded fighting skills. After his abilities are outed, his previously passive and somewhat defensively-snarky son (who had up to this point been in a healthy and loving environment, in which Tom preached self-control) went off like a claymore mine on a bully, beating him down with surprising savagery. However, it is mostly the surprise that won him the fight; the temper may have been his father's (such things may be inherited), and he showed no real technique, so this is a borderline example.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, soon after it is revealed that Indy is Mutt's biological father, Mutt suddenly displays miraculous rope-swinging powers which surpasses anything we've ever seen the old man do.
    • He does swing every bit as well as the monkeys in the jungle around him...
  • In The Legend of Zorro, Don Alejandro de la Vega's son, Joaquin, seems to have inherited his father's taste for social justice and swordfighting skills despite the fact that he has no idea his father is actually Zorro.
  • Mermaids: Kate's father was a champion swimmer. She herself has keen skill in swimming, so much that her teacher sees her as Olympic material, just like her father apparently was.
  • In Pandorum, the colonists were injected with mutagens designed to make them undergo "accelerated evolution". Unfortunately it caused those who woke up first (or maybe their descendants) to become albino cannibals.
  • Lampshaded in Sky High (2005), with a lecture on superhero genetics given by the school nurse.
  • The premise of Son of the Mask is that the protagonist's kid inherits all the powers of the mask on a permanent basis because his father was wearing it when he was conceived. Apparently genetic material operates under different rules than clothing, where in the first movie it was a plot point that Stanley's clothing reverted to normal when a piece was torn off.
  • The head art designer for Star Trek (2009) came up with the explanation for the Romulans' V-shaped forehead ridges that they were originally formed by raised scar tissue from ritualistic cutting, and its prevalence caused it to eventually become a naturally occurring genetic trait. Which is akin to claiming that if you have a family line where everyone cuts off their left pinky finger, after enough generations, they will start having babies which are born without that finger.

  • One Cherokee creation myth states that originally, all the world's deer lived in a single cave. When a boy who wanted to hunt them unsealed the cave, they all ran out. The boy quickly shot them all as they fled, but they survived and he only managed to hit them in their anuses, because they were running away. As a result, they lifted their tails up. Supposedly, this is why deer keep their tails pointed up to this day.
  • A European folktale says that the reason dogs have wet noses is that the two dogs on Noah's Ark spent the Great Flood with their noses sticking out in the rain.
  • There are similar tales on why bears have short tails (ice fishing with their tails, getting most of it bitten off by a pike/frozen off by the cold water) and why elephants have trunks (getting too close to a crocodile who grabbed his nose and ended up stretching it before the elephant struggled free).
  • Similarly, the tale of Loki's final capture and binding until Ragnarok told of how he tried to escape the Aesir's wrath by turning into a salmon and swimming away. Thor caught him by the tail, squeezing with godlike strength. This is the Norse explanation for salmon having pointed tails.
    • Siamese cats supposedly have kinked tails because their ancestors used to hold the rings of their ancient Siamese princess owners on their tails while the women would bathe, and the cats would then helpfully curve the tails to hold the jewellery better.
  • There are countless tales that explain how a certain animal became what it is, all via artificial means. Be it a certain color they received via paint being dropped on them (like one bird which is very colorful, supposedly cause God was running out of paint and used a bit of everything on the last bird), body "deformations" due to mechanical force (like the elephant example above), losing body parts due to them being chopped off, or behaviors which are supposedly due to past experiences (e.g. the reason all birds are hostile towards owls is supposed to be because the owl messed something up in one folklore, so it seems even grudges get inherited.) In folklore these can be called "once-always" stories; animals, people, plants, etc. are the way they are to mark a particular event in the distant past. Mircea Eliade would say this is one of the ways people connect ordinary, everyday things with the distant, mythic past and keep it as a living reality.
  • From The Bible there are multiple examples from the "Book of Genesis":
    • Though never stated in the Bible, it's "Common Knowledge" that women have more ribs than men because Adam gave up one to create Eve. It's been theorized that the "rib" removed was actually a euphemism for the baculum, a bone present in the penis of many other mammals but not humans.
    • Likewise, the idea that men have an Adam's apple because a piece of the Forbidden Fruit got stuck in Adam's throat is neither Biblical nor, presumably, accurate.
    • The snake which God cursed for having caused Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, dooming it to "crawl on its belly for the rest of its days" (implying it moved some other way before).
    • Jacob bred goats in front of certain trees in the belief their offspring would acquire those trees' colors, which is really stretching things unless you assume God was pulling strings for him. Which is kind of implied.
  • According to Japanese folklore, a sleeping cat once had its tail catch on fire, and it ran, panicked through a city, burning the entire place to the ground. Henceforth, the emperor himself declared that all cats have their tails docked short, explaining why the Japanese bobtail breed has a short tail.
  • According to Greek myth, the reason Athenian boys have small, lean buttocks is that when Heracles rescued Theseus from the Underworld, Theseus had to tear strips of his buttocks away to escape a trap bench.
  • Prior to the 19th century, it was widely believed that Maternal Impression could alter a resulting child's form; e.g., the Elephant Man supposedly got his appearance due to his mother being startled by an elephant while pregnant with him.

  • In the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, the man-ape Moon-Watcher being made intelligent by the monolith is described thus: "The very atoms of his simple brain were being twisted into new patterns. If he survived, those patterns would become eternal, for his genes would pass them on to future generations." If the monolith wanted the patterns passed on, it should have been doing the twisting a bit lower down...
  • Oddly abused in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians YA novels, where superhuman powers, called "Talents," literally and explicitly come from having the last name "Smedry". Al's mother acquires the ability to "lose things" by marrying Mr. Smedry, and an escape is engineered at one point by Alcatraz performing a marriage between a Smedry and a good librarian. This passes his ability to Dance Badly.
  • Aria the Scarlet Ammo: Averted, in the case of two of the characters. Supposedly, both Aria and Riko are deficient versions of their great-grandfathers. Aria is unable to solve cases with the Holmes deductive skills, and Riko is not as impressive a thief as a Lupin should be.
  • Baccano!:
    • Huey Laforet, immortal thanks to the Elixir of Life, sires Chane for the purpose of testing this trope. Turns out that Lamarck Wasn't Right.
    • Played straight. Claire's solipsism — his belief that the world is his dream and therefore he is the only real person — is somehow passed onto all of his and Chane's descendants, with their granddaughter, Claudia, exhibiting this the most.
  • In the story Bisclavret from the Lais of Marie de France, a werewolf bites off a woman's nose and all of her descendants are born without noses because of that.
  • In A Brother's Price, the Whistler family borders on this. Sure, the grandmothers were spies and passed the knowledge on. Still, the fact that even the toddler sisters can professionally search guests' luggage (including the locked chests) for anything suspicious without being noticed, strongly suggests that, at the very least, natural selection was at work. And of course there's Jerin, whose only experience with subterfuge is trying to get his sisters to do a part of the housework. When he's kidnapped, he instantly applies his knowledge to outwitting the kidnappers, with considerable success.
  • In The Coming Race, each Vril-ya has a staff that they use to control vril, and a large nerve in their palm to allow them to easily perform great feats even as young children. Their ancestors developed that nerve over the course of thousands of generations of use and exposure to vril.
  • Discworld
    • Soul Music: Susan Sto Helit is Death's granddaughter, and has much of his power. The problem is, Susan's mother was Death's adopted daughter; her father was Death's apprentice (who came pretty damn close to becoming Death). She also has a mark on her cheek that resembles the mark her father got when he was slapped by Death. Susan lampshades this by repeatedly pointing out genetics does not work that way. The series itself, meanwhile, has noted that on the Disc, not all heredity is genetic.
    • Conina from Sourcery. She is the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian — and frustrated by her constant urges to dress in steal everything in sight and beat the crap out of everyone that looks at her the wrong way, as her real ambition is to be a hairdresser. She's also inherited his Charles Atlas Superpower. Like the above though, Cohen's status is mythical and that tends to overrule reality on the Disc.
  • Word of God explains that most methods of gaining magic in The Cosmere rewrite a person's "spiritual DNA," allowing the magic to be passed on. Allomancy from Mistborn is one of the most visible, to the point that it's basically genetic, but there are others. The Idrian royal family in Warbreaker have the "Royal Locks," color-changing hair that is only inherited by those in line for the throne, because they are descended from the First Returned. The lighteyes from The Stormlight Archive are descended from the darkeyes who stole the Shardblades of the Knights Radiant. Bonding a Shardblade lightens eye color, and this was passed down. The Knights themselves may have passed down their light eyes as well, but none of their other abilities.
  • In Agatha Christie's short story "The Cretan Bull" in her collection The Labors of Hercules, Hercule Poirot solves a mystery by determining that the character Colonel Frobisher was really the father of Hugh Chandler. He did this due to the biological fact that Hugh inherited Frobisher's habit of "drawing down his brows over his eyes and lowering his head, thrusting it forward, while those same shrewd little eyes studied you piercingly." No word for which chromosome this habit comes from.
  • The Star Kings of Jack Vance's Demon Princes universe are explicitly stated to have Lamarckian genetics, and it's the reason they become the dominant species on their planet.
  • Dune:
    • Memory can sometimes be inherited. While the Bene Geserrit gain their "other memories" during their transformation to reverend mothers (thus not being examples of this trope), Paul's children Leto and Ghanime seem to inherit the memories of all their ancestors. There are also the gholas, who are clones that regain the memories of their former lives, although that happens usually after they grow up.
    • Personality traits are inherited, such as the honor of the Atreides and the evilness of the Harkonnens.
  • The passing of skills along family lines is explained within the religious underpinnings of Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye and the Arm: The spirits of your ancestors actually hung around the family, and if they took a liking to a kid, they'd pass down their own skills. Hence, if little Jimmy winds up with unbelievable skills at piloting a fighter plane, it's not so much because he's genetically related to great-great-grand-uncle George (the ace fighter pilot), but because George's spirit stuck around after death, and kinda melded with Jimmy to grant him George's original powers.
  • Justified in the SF short story The Engineer and the Executioner, about a genetic experiment in a hollowed-out asteroid (which is actually called Lamarck), as the colony used in the experiment was actually designed to use Lamarckian evolution (which, in the story, turns out to be astonishingly rapid).
  • In Stephen King's Firestarter, a couple gains Psychic Powers (Mind Control and Telekinesis, respectively) from a drug given to them in an experiment. Their daughter is born with telekinesis and pyrokinesis as a result. This is Hand Waved when the father speculates that the drug must have affected their DNA. King mentioned afterwards that he never liked that explanation, preferring stories where supernatural things just happen, and are never explained.
  • In Frankenstein, Frankenstein destroys the "bride" he created for the monster because he fears what might happen if they reproduced. Frankenstein was written before Darwin's theory was proposed and Lamarck's had been only recently (probably unknown to the author). In short, Science Marches On.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's The Frankenstein Papers, the greedy plantation-owner funding Frankenstein's research expects the trope to hold. He expects his creations will breed a new race of super-strong laborers to work as slaves on their Caribbean properties. No such luck.
  • Gene Stratton-Porter's 1904 novel Freckles is based entirely around this conceit. The hero, raised since infancy in a Chicago orphanage, speaks with an Irish accent because his parents were Irish; speaks, in fact, with an upper-class Irish accent, because he had "an ancestor who used cultivated English". He is musically gifted, able with no training to sing "with wonderful accent and ease", and this is credited to the assumption that he has "a marvelously trained vocalist" in his "close blood". Even his manners are inherited:
    "Mr. McLean says that you never once have failed in tact and courtesy. He says that you are the most perfect gentleman he ever knew, and he has traveled the world over. How does it happen, Freckles? No one at that Home taught you. Hundreds of men couldn't be taught, even in a school of etiquette; so it must be instinctive with you. If it is, why, that means that it is born in you, and a direct inheritance from a race of men that have been gentlemen for ages, and couldn't be anything else."
  • Discussed and defied in Good Omens. Aziraphale worries that The Antichrist will grow up evil no matter what, but Crowley disagrees.
    "Look at Satan. Created as an angel, grows up to be the Great Adversary. Hey, if you're going to go on about genetics, you might as well say the kid will grow up to be an angel. [...] Saying he'll grow up to be a demon just because his dad became one is like saying a mouse with its tail cut off will give birth to tailless mice.”
  • In Harry Potter, Harry instantly becomes a talented Seeker despite never having played or even seen anyone play before. The characters explain this by saying that James was an incredible flyer as well. The problem here stems from the fact that it is said that Harry got his good eyesight for locating the snitch from his father. The same Harry that wears glasses which shows just how strange genetics can be: Harry has Myopia, but could easily have excellent vision by other standards, such as colour, depth, and motion perception.
    • For more Headscratchers: a) Harry's father also had worn glasses, and b) In the book series, it's repeatedly mentioned that while Harry looks very similar to his father, he has his mother's eyes.
    • The most useless case of Lamarckian evolution used in fiction: messy hair. (Although unmanageable hair could be a legitimate genetic inheritance.)
  • In the House of Doors, the children of those who know magic are more able to learn it themselves.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Discussed and defied in Jeremiah 31:29-30. The Lord says:
    "In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge."
  • Journey to Chaos: Tiza inherited her Third Eye ability from her father, Retina. He had to undergo mana mutation (or something like it) that imparted this special power unto him; she used it instinctively, like a child learning to walk. Haburt, an academic mage acquainted with both of them, assumes that Retina's mana mutation fundamentally changed him biologically.
  • Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, evidently believed in Lamarckian evolution, but he makes it ambiruous enough. In "Kaa's Hunting", Mowgli is able to show the monkeys his skill at weaving sticks together because he is a woodcutter's son, although it's implied he was old enough when he wandered into the wolves' den that he might have seen people doing it. In "Red Dog", he cuts off the leading dhole's tail and then taunts him by telling him "There will now be many litters of little tailless red dogs, yea, with raw red stumps that sting when the sand is hot." (Since a wolf ends up killing him anyway this theory is never put to the test, and we're never sure if Mowgli is serious or sarcastically taunting him).
  • All of the Just So Stories are pure Lamarck, justified a bit in that they are meant to be creation myths after all. Well, except how the camel got his humph but that's another tale.
  • In Frank Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?", the king of an ancient, barbarian country has raised himself to "semi-barbarian" due to exposure to Ancient Grome. His daughter, the princess, is also semi-barbarian despite no exposure to any of those things, and the conflict between her civilized half and her barbarian half drives the question of whether she will send her lover to marriage to another woman or death by tiger.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Benji says something along the lines of 'dragokin powers activate!' frequently because he believes he inherited them from his mother. Double subverted as they were latent and awakened in the climax. Not only does Benji inherit dragokin powers but the skill to use them.
  • Shannara:
    • The Ohmsford family begins to have innate magic starting with the children of Wil Ohmsford. Justified in-story: Wil's use of the magical elfstones was problematic, as he wasn't "elf" enough, and permanently left a trace of magic within him.
    • The dwarves meanwhile have all inherited a deep claustrophobia and fear of the dark as a result of their ancestors having to hide underground during the great wars that predated the series.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, all of the numerous bastards of Emperor Dayless demonstrate a common trait: being very skilled swordfighters with an eye for practicality, just like their father. One character even cites this as evidence of another's parentage.
  • In the sequel to Wicked, Son of a Witch, Elphaba's Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette son Liir gets some secret Intimate Healing from Candle, who becomes pregnant. After Liir's many misadventures she shows up just long enough to dump their green-skinned daughter on him. Apparently the Wizard's dye seeped into Elphaba's DNA... and Candle's for it to skip generations like that. That, or something on Liir's Y-Chromosome blocked the green trait.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • This frequently happens among Houses, with distinctive looks and sometimes personalities among Houses. For example, the three Baratheon brothers, Robert, Stannis, and Renly, are noted to be quite stubborn, though apart from that, they have quite different personalities. Robert's bastards all resemble him, which becomes a plot point as his legitimate children don't, looking more like their mother Cersei's House, the Lannisters. It later turns out they are not Robert's children, but were sired from an incestuous affair between Cersei and her brother, Ser Jaime Lannister. Robert's bastards also seem to share the Baratheon stubbornness, even Gendry who is unaware of his parentage, though correctly thinks his father was some smelly drunk. Two of Robert's bastards also share his affinity for hammers; Edric Storm had a miniature hammer sent to him for a present, while Gendry uses a hammer himself and has been trained as a smith.
    • With regards to Cersei's father Tywin Lannister, his youngest child Tyrion Lannister seems to have inherited his Machiavellian intelligence. Ironically, due to Tyrion being a dwarf and for Tywin's beloved wife Joanna dying in childbirth, Tywin hates Tyrion; when his sister Genna pointed out Tyrion was the child most like him, Tywin refused to speak to her. Cersei, meanwhile, believes she's inherited Tywin's political skill but only seems to inherit his cruelty and contempt for the smallfolk. Her eldest son Joffrey is even nastier and more tyrannical than Cersei, though this may be partially due to her influence. Ironically Tywin's favored son Ser Jaime Lannister is the one least like him, not having Tywin's political savvy and becoming more decent as the story goes on, questioning the influence of his family on his actions.
    • Walder Frey has a mass of descendants, being almost 90 when the series begins, and from his various marriages and affairs, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren number over a hundred. They're all generally described as looking like weasels and acting unpleasantly, though there are some nice Freys.
  • The novelization of Star Wars' A New Hope averts this. Ben comments that like his father, Luke is an excellent pilot, then goes on to say that "[p]iloting skill isn't hereditary, but many of the aptitudes that produce a good small-ship pilot are." It's also established that Luke's spent a lot of time practicing high-speed low-altitude high-precision flying. And, y'know, both of them having Force-enhanced reflexes doesn't hurt either (though Force-sensitivity is not necessarily genetic).
  • Tarzan's son Jack inherited his father's highly trained strength, reflexes, and ability to understand animals (particularly apes), despite growing up on the estate of an English nobleman instead of in a savage jungle. Lord Greystoke himself is perplexed as to how his son could have inherited all that when he hadn't even told him about his upbringing as an ape. Not only does Greystoke specifically not believe such things can be inherited, he's gone out of his way not to tell him anything about his past because Jane wouldn't allow it, fearing Jack might run off on some damn fool adventure to the African interior. And, of course, that's what happens.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The version of the Orcs' origin that made it into the published Silmarillion, wherein they're descended from Elves whom Morgoth tortured and corrupted, is very Lamarckian. On the other hand, the story is presented as something the Elves believe to be true, not necessarily something that is true, they were created from whole cloth rather than an evolved species, and The Silmarillion is written as a mythological epic anyway, so Lamarckism fits the setting. And then there's the race of Petty-Dwarves, who've grown stunted and hunched from generations of suspicious, secretive lifestyle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Angel, Connor inherits all the advantages of his vampire parents without actually being a vampire. The reason for this is explained in "The Trial".
  • In a season two episode of Babylon 5, it is revealed that the PsiCorps have developed a treatment that turns telepaths into empaths, and that they want to subject Talia to the treatment and then have her get with the other empath to make lots of empath babies, proving that they are not only evil, they also Fail Biology Forever.
  • The commercials for Birds of Prey (2002) made a great deal out of the idea that the daughter of Batman and Catwoman would have inherited her father's drive to fight crime and her mother's drive to commit it.
  • The daughters of the titular hero of Black Lightning (2018) inherit their father's metahuman gene, developing their own powers. Whereas the older Anissa gains Super-Strength, it's the younger Jennifer who directly gains his Shock and Awe abilities; however, while Black Lightning requires that he stores electricity in his body to fuel his powers, Jennifer generates electricity as her body keeps producing energy, the implication that she will potentially be stronger than her father one day after mastering her abilities.
  • In Charmed, exceptionally virtuous people are brought back to life as Whitelighters after death—and yet their children inherit their powers no matter what their moral alignment.
    • Even stranger: in the Comic-Book Adaptation (in Canon and set after the show), Leo and Piper's third child, Melinda, has Whitelighter powers, even though Leo has been Brought Down to Normal by the time she was conceived. Another Whitelighter claims that after sixty years, the magic got encoded in his DNA.
  • Criminal Minds: Without discussing it directly, the episode "Birthright" relies on this sort of thinking. A current unsub is eerily similar to an unsub from 30 years ago, who has died in the interim. As in, copying details that were never released to the public. The team finds out he has two sons—one born to his wife shortly after his death, and one born to one of his surviving victims after she escaped—and the case becomes about determining which of the two is the current killer. Since neither one could have learned it from his father directly, the team is basing their investigation on the belief that the desire, knowledge, and ability to commit a very specific crime spree is genetic. The actual explanation does avert it: his legitimate son found his journals, where he described his MO in detail, and consciously chose to copy his father.
  • In Doctor Who, this apparently applies to an entire species: The Face of Boe is mentioned as being pregnant with Boemina in "The Long Game" and is the last of Boekind in "Gridlock". Then, in "Last of the Time Lords", it's strongly implied that the Face is Captain Jack at the end of his long life. Taking all this at face value, it would appear that "Boekind" are shorter-lived children of Captain Jack who are born in his final form.
  • Justified in Eli Stone: Both Eli and his father had the same brain aneurysm (which acted as a sort of antenna for them to receive visions from God) because they were both specifically chosen to receive it.
  • On The Mentalist, an internal affairs officer tells Lawful Good Fair Cop Rigsby it's not his fault if he's prone to crime, since his father was a biker, and evidence suggests criminality could run in the family. He is not happy. Also subverted in that everybody on the team is seen to be very different from their parents (who include the aforementioned biker, an abusive drunk, and a particularly nasty con man).
  • Played with in Psych where Gus (wrongly) believes that he can handle spicy (Indian) food because he's 1/4 Jamaican.
  • The Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1 are a species for which Lamarck Was Right. They even inherit memories. Since they are aliens with a very divergent reproductive cycle, human genetics doesn't apply. What is less justifiable is that the child of two Goa'uld hosts also inherits memories, despite being biologically human.

  • Jeff Buckley, who barely knew his father Tim, nor listened to his music until he was an adult, bore a strange amount of resemblance to him. This was most notable in his folk influences (both played 12-string guitars), which gave way to more experimental music (in Tim's case, funk, and in Jeff's case, alt-rock), both their signature songs being sparse songs atypical of their regular output (Tim's "Song To The Siren" and Jeff's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". respectively), his appearance and his early death and cult following. Jeff did not pursue a career in music because of his father, nor with any goal of making similar music, so it is a rare example of this trope in effect unintentionally.

    Music Videos 

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The Clans believe in this trope, even though it's not any truer in-universe than it is in the real world. Clan Trueborn warriors are Artificial Humans made via Uterine Replicator with the combined DNA of two previous Trueborn warriors. While all warriors have DNA samples taken at the beginning of their careers, DNA samples that are taken from them after they've performed a great victory or otherwise accomplished something major are considered "better" for use in reproduction than samples taken before such accomplishments. The Scientist Caste, who are the ones that are actually responsible for creating Trueborn generations, know this is silly but indulge the Warrior Caste anyway.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Tieflings in the 4th Edition partially inherit a Deal with the Devil that their ancestors made as a racial trait. Their differences from baseline humanity are magical, not biological, though.
    • According to Draconomicon, dragons can pass on some of what they learn to their offspring. It's a handy way of ensuring they're Always Chaotic Evil.
  • The Dragonbloods in Exalted benefit greatly from Lamarck being right, as do some mortals to a lesser extent. It stands out as being one of the few settings to have a god of Lamarck being right: Parad, the Left Hand of Power and God of Inherited Might. This is shown by even having a background (merit trait) called "Breeding" which details the purity of blood and the elemental connection your parents possessed that you inherited. Probably most prominent in the case of the children of powerful celestial exalted, given that the celestial's exaltations themselves are completely non-hereditary.
  • In GURPS 3rd Edition Steampunk sourcebook, optional rules are given if you want to play in a gameworld where Lamarckian evolution is correct, allowing high-skill parents to give exceptional talents to their offspring.
  • One of the sources for many bloodlines for the Sorcerer character class in Pathfinder, aside from the old-fashioned way. This is the explanation for the Arcane (standard) and Maestro bloodlines, among others. Also makes the Undead bloodline a lot less Squicky. Enforced as the usual source for draconic bloodlines: Paizo's designers reportedly didn't like the proliferation of Half-Human Hybrid creature templates in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, so they established that in Golarion, sorcerers with draconic bloodlines are usually descended from people who were closely associated with dragons rather than from dragons themselves.
  • In keeping with Gothic fiction, powerful curses in the Ravenloft setting can be passed down from one generation to the next, deserved or not. This may say more about the Dark Powers' jerkass tendencies than about Lamarckism, however.
  • The gene-splicers of Rifts can not only alter the DNA of a person in myriad ways, they can also add new traits by "splicing" in DNA from another creature (to give a person wings, for example). Where this trope comes into play is that they are so skilled at genetic manipulation, they can even decide whether or not the children of a "spliced" individual has his altered traits or not.
  • The Archeans, human-analogs from the Talislanta game, are descended from Beast Folk who'd used magic to eliminate their more animalistic traits.

    Video Games 
  • Until the 2.5.2 patch for the Conclave DLC, educating children in Crusader Kings II could bestow them with inheritable traits like strong, quick, genius... or imbecile.
  • The Final Fantasy VII chocobo breeding sidequest relied partly on the birds' rankings in the chocobo racing minigame to produce Green, Blue, Black, and Gold chocobos with special powers.
  • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the characters in the second generation (if their mother was paired up with someone) have their skills/stats/stat growths influenced by their parents. The Character Tiers take this into account.
    • Generally in the games, it's normally said that only certain bloodlines can use certain weapons. Examples include: the Falchion (Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light/Mystery of the Emblem/Awakening); Aum Staff (Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light/Mystery of the Emblem) and all of the holy weapons (Genealogy of the Holy War).
      • Funnily enough, it's zigzagged in the Elibe saga; in The Blazing Blade, only Eliwood (descended from Roland) can wield Durandal and only Hector (implied to be Durban's descendant) can wield Armads. But Lyn and Hector are also descended from Roland, and neither of them can wield Durandal. And in The Binding Blade, anyone skilled enough in swords or axes can wield Durandal or Armads respectively, and Roy (who is not descended from Hartmut) can wield the Sword of Seals. But nobody except Hartmut's descendants (read: Zephiel) can wield Eckeseax.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, the children units that can be recruited after a certain point in the story will inherit two of their parents' skills (one from each parent), and their stats will also be affected depending on who their parents are.
  • Infinity Blade is this trope distilled into a video game. In it, the hero must defeat the evil God King, but will inevitably fail. No worries though, as his offspring inherits all XP and equipment from him, allowing the player to become stronger with each new generation. As it turns out, that's not true. The main character is actually a Deathless who is resurrected back to a child's body after each death.
  • The asari from Mass Effect have an element of this. Essentially, because of the way their reproductive system works, it's theorised that the child develops traits that the "mother" really likes about the "father". It's not treated as fact, but more like a popular belief. Given the limited examples, however, the theory seems somewhat supported (though far from proven).
    • In the third game, Liara's asari father tells her that her grandfather was a krogan, so it's perfectly understandable if she wants to head-butt somebody.
      • However Matriarch Aethyta also lampshades the fact that, truthfully, no-one really knows how it works.
    • Like humans, asari can have long-term attachments to partners or come away pregnant from a single joining, which need not be sexual. The single example of an asari most clearly taking after a non-asari parent was a long-term thing, and her father stayed around and told her stories, making it a Nature Versus Nurture thing.
  • Solid Snake of the Metal Gear series inherited, among other things, near-inhuman combat abilities and love of cardboard boxes from his "father" Big Boss, at least superficially. In practice, he had the "least perfect" genes of all his brothers and yet beat them due to his own combat experience. The genes only allowed him to be physically capable of being a good soldier, and it was still up to him whether he was and how good of one he was. After all, one of the main themes of Metal Gear is Nature vs. Nurture, and since he beat his genetically superior brothers, it's pretty obvious which side of the debate the game takes. Metal Gear Solid even featured "Genome Soldiers" that were augmented by "gene therapy" with Big Boss's "soldier genes" in an effort to create elite soldiers without military training. It didn't work.
  • Minecraft takes this to extremes with livestock breeding. Sheep are usually white, but other natural colors include black, gray, brown, and (rarely) pink. However, sheep can be dyed any color of the rainbow, and this color is passed onto offspring. This feature was implemented by popular request since blue dye is made from lapis lazuli, a mineral found deep underground, only slightly more common than diamonds.
  • Played straight in Phantasy Star III where at the end of each chapter, the main character can marry one of two girls. The kid will inherit the skills of his parents (including the capability of using magic) and some physical traits, including hair color.
  • This is one of the main reasons for breeding in Pokémon. The offspring will inherit certain moves from the father (and from Generation VI onwards the mother as well), and a lengthy "breeding chain" can be set up to get unique moves for Pokémon that wouldn't learn then normally.
  • Romancing SaGa 2 had a system of inheriting the previous Emperor's abilities. Justified with magic, though.
  • In Shepherd's Crossing, the color of an animal's offspring can change based on the food you feed them. However, these alternately-colored children can pass on to their offspring regardless of what they eat.
  • The Sims:
    • In The Sims 2, Servos would have all the skills and talent badges of their creator (including the gold robotics talent badge required to build a Servo in the first place). Plant-sim babies that are "spawned" independently instead of conceived by WooHoo likewise inherit the skills and talent badges of their parent.
    • In The Sims 3, parents can pass on their traits to their children. Also, since all hair/eye/skin colors are now equally dominant (as opposed to following the basic Punnett model of dominant and recessive that was in its predecessor), you could easily have a child with Dad's blue skin and Mom's pink hair with orange highlights.
    • The Sims 4: A mother dyeing her hair during pregnancy will result in the baby having her new hair color (e.g. a pregnant brunette who dyes her hair red will get a red-haired baby)
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series' Chao (introduced in Sonic Adventure) work a little bit like this. Two Chao born as completely blank slates with randomized stat grades (indicating how well they're going to progress when that stat levels up) can raise their stats through work and raise a stat's grade. If you breed them together, the child will inherit stat grades from one parent or the other and can inherit the improved grade rather than the original.
  • Terraria: If you paint grass a different color, it will bring that color with it as it grows over bare dirt or mud blocks, and spread the color to any weeds or vines that grow out of it.
  • Tomodachi Life: The skin, hair, and faces of the Mii babies are an obvious mixture of the elements of their parents, by color, style, and even their positioning. This even extends to babies inheriting lipstick or eyeshadow, or at other times, inheriting old, grey hair.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Apollo, Trucy, and Thalassa, who evidently inherited Magnifi's ability to tell when people are tensing up in very subtle ways. They need a bracelet made of Applied Phlebotinum for its full effect, though.
    • To a smaller degree, Franziska von Karma inherited both her father Manfred von Karma's prosecuting skills and his ability to get shot in the shoulder.
    • Maya, Mia, Misty, and Pearl Fey have all inherited Ami Fey's potential and ability to channel the spirits of the dead. Morgan Fey and her two other daughters, however, only got traces of it, which is a driving force behind a huge portion of the plot of the second and third games.
  • In Tsukihime, this is heavily suggested to be the source of Shiki Tohno's rather situational combat skills. His birth family, the Nanayas, were a clan of demon-slayers. However, Shiki was taken from them when he was no older than six, so it seems strange that he has such excellent hand-to-hand combat skills when he's never trained and, notably, didn't even know he had them himself. The Nanaya clan also placed a heavy emphasis on selective breeding to produce superior demon-slayers, further suggesting this trope.


    Web Original 
  • Grandchildren of people who had lived through famine were less likely to catch diabetes. Mice exposed to enriched learning environments had offspring with improved memory This apparent Lamarckian inheritance is the third creepiest thing hiding in your DNA according to Cracked. This article also mentions endogenous retroviruses (see Real Life below).
  • Thoroughly deconstructed in Lamarckism Troubles.
  • Web prose series Star Harbor Nights has characters inheriting their parents' acquired as well as inborn mutations. Gleefully but obscurely lampshaded by the name of a mutation-inducing drug, Lysenkol... named for Lysenko, a Soviet scientist who believed in the inheritance of acquired traits.
  • Something like this is going on in the Whateley Universe. Getting mutant powers is really really rare. But superheroes and supervillains seem to have insanely high odds of having kids with powers too. What, does using your powers a ton make them pop up in your kids?
    • Superpowers are explicitly a combination of genetic and environmental factors, super heroics probably come under environmental.
    • According to Word of God, the "mutant gene complex" is actually fairly common in the human population of Whateley Earth (about one in seven). It's that complex becoming active (usually at puberty) that's normally quite rare. Depending on how said complex gets passed on and what exactly triggers it, the chances of two "live" mutants who by definition both have it in their DNA themselves producing more mutant offspring could thus plausibly be quite high (non-mutant supers, however, are on their own).

    Western Animation 
  • On Adventure Time, making an immortal psychic griffin/sphinx out of the DNA of the local pure-of-heart Kid Hero is apparently proof positive that it won't be evil.
  • This idea is tossed around a bit in Avatar: The Last Airbender. If at least one of the parents is a bender, there's a good chance the child they have will also be a bender. That's not including combinations from different tribes and what not.
    • The way it's supposed to work is that while what element you are able to bend is genetic (and how much potential you have), whether or not you can bend at all is "spiritual" which seems to mean "random." Thus why the Fire Nation could wipe out all the waterbenders of the Southern Water Tribe and have a waterbender born two generations later (Katara), and why two powerful benders can have a non-bending child (Piandao). This despite it being revealed that bending was initially given by the lion turtles through energybending. "Unique" bending abilities, such as the ability to "see" through the earth and moonless bloodbending can also be inherited.
      • In the latter example, it is shown that while the two boys had the capability, their father trained them ruthlessly and vigorously so they would learn in a few years what took him decades to do.
      • Azula demonstrates this trope to a degree. Azulon (her grandfather) and Sozin as well as Roku were all talented firebenders from early ages and Azula certainly picked up that trait from them as well. She also inherited their batshit craziness.
      • Curiously enough the ability to "see" with the earth doesn't seem to be a matter of genetics but more spiritual training: Toph, the first known earth bender to "see" with bending learnt from Badger Moles, 'the first earth benders'. She taught Aang and later her daughters how to do the same. In the same way Dragons, Sky Bison, and the Moon can teach those with an aptitude how to bend their element (as explained by Aang and Zuko).
    • All Air Nomads are airbenders, though. It has been theorized this is due to their high spirituality.
    • Toph invented metalbending, something all her children and grandchildren (except Opal, an airbender) can do, though not as well as her. Then again, no one's as good as Toph. The ability isn't limited to her bloodline though, as she'd taught other Earthbenders how to do so long before ever having children.
  • There was an episode of CatDog where the duo enter a Bad Future where Winslow's 38th descendant is an Evil Overlord. Who, after generations of physical training has become humungous and incredibly buff all because Cat made fun of his size one too many times.
  • A 1942 MGM cartoon called Chips Off the Old Block has a beat-up old tomcat named Butch find a litter of Doorstop Kittens that he tries to hide from his mistress. He's obviously the father because they all have the same coloring as he does... and the same chewed-up ear(!).
  • Clone High:
    • Subverted. Absolutely none of the clones have anything in common with their progenitors except for their appearance (and that can be somewhat dubious; for instance, Cleopatra was not a beautiful native Egyptian but descended from Greek rulers). The only one who even vaguely resembles their progenitor is JFK, who acts like a caricature of the actual Kennedy, due to a combination of insecurity over his masculinity due to his gay foster parents, and his belief that that's how the actual JFK acted.
    • Outright spoofed with Gandhi, who acts exactly how you wouldn't expect a clone of Mahatma Gandhi to behave; he's a loud, obnoxious, dim-witted skirt-chaser. (This has been stated as being a result of his having broken under the pressure of living up to the original Gandhi's legacy.) Still non-violent, though. Sometimes.
      Gandhi: If there's one thing Mahatma Gandhi stands for, it's REVENGE!
    • Had the show been continued, it would have been revealed that there was a mixup in the cloning lab, and his DNA was actually from Gary Coleman all along.
    • Many of the minor clones really do act like their predecessors, though. This is mostly done for a quick gag (i.e., George Washington Carver's clone has somehow genetically engineered a talking peanut).
  • Toyed with in an episode of The Critic, where Jay (a portly film critic who is adopted) finds who he thinks is his birth mother.
    Jay: Who was my father?
    Doris: I'm not sure. It was either John F. Kennedy or some fat guy who always went to movies and complained about them.
    Jay: John F. Kennedy was my father?!
  • Family Guy:
    • When (paraplegic) Joe and Bonnie's daughter is finally born, its wheelchair comes out of the womb first. She is not paraplegic though.
    • Most of Quagmire's illegitimate children inexplicably inherit his catchphrase. Occasionally, as a plot point, it's how he (and the audience) knows he's the father.
  • Famous 5: On the Case, the Disney cartoon based loosely on The Famous Five, plays this straight with the children of the original Five. Both boys have sons, both girls have daughters. Julian and his son Max are both action leaders, Dick and Dylan are both The Smart Guy, George and Jo are tomboys, Allie and Anne are girly girls. And, well, Timmy Jr is still a dog, but that one's justified.
  • On Rocko's Modern Life, Dr. Hutchison (a cat) lays an egg after marrying Filburt (a turtle) and leaves it in his care while she goes to work. Filburt has his friend Heffer (a steer) sit on the egg to keep it warm. It eventually hatches into four kids, one of whom looks like Heffer.
  • Has come up a few times on The Simpsons:
    • During a blizzard that left the kids of Springfield Elementary trapped in the school, Nelson offered to dig a tunnel through the snow with his bare hands, which he thought he could do because he was part Eskimo. Principal Skinner retorted that not even Kristi Yamaguchi could do that.
    • The evil in Sideshow Bob's family is definitely In the Blood, even if they're fighting against each other. This trope applies to Bob's son Gino, who apparently fantasized about murdering Bart before he had ever seen or heard of him. He also inexplicably picked up his father's gift for Rake Takes.
    • In the episode "The Color Yellow", Bart and Lisa learn that their great-great-great-great grandfather was a black slave. Bart and Lisa surmise that this explains why the former is "so cool", and why the latter has such an ear for jazz.
  • Played for Laughs in South Park with the PC Babies. Their father is obviously PC Principal (though Strong Woman doesn't want to admit it); not only were they seemingly born with sunglasses, but they start crying when exposed to anything that's even slightly politically incorrect.

    Real Life 
  • As mentioned above, recently, it's been discovered that some acquired changes can be inherited, albeit in a weaker, more general, less permanent, and (probably) less important form. The study of this is called epigenetics. Chemical changes to the DNA can help inactivate or activate parts of it — and because it's still DNA, these can be passed on. For instance, malnutrition might mean that your DNA doesn't methylate properly while you're growing up, and conditions in the womb can affect development of the fetus, which can pass on some information about the mother's environment — how much food is available, and so on — to the child. Science Marches On. note 
    • Experiments in rats have shown that cross-fostered pups of mothers who exhibit attentive parental care (licking and grooming behaviors, in particular) end up, through the action of acetylation and methylation, having less of an "anxious" response to stressors. When these rats become mothers themselves, they exhibit the same sort of parental behavior towards their pups, so it is a continuing cycle — independent of genotype, the maternal attention is propagated to the next generation, and so on.
    • Traditional Native Americans have known for centuries that the effects of stress and trauma can be passed on and account for the high rate of alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, and illnesses like diabetes among Indian people. Native scientists and researchers are now uncovering the facts about intergenerational trauma. Support organizations like Wellbriety are based on healing and recovery through the application of these ideas.
  • Studies of microbiomes (basically, bacteria and other microscopic organisms on a human body) and their interactions with human cells are a significant component of how a human body functions in many aspects. The microbiomes that have been accumulated over a woman's lifetime will be at least partly inherited by her child, thus leading to inheritance of at least some acquired traits.
  • Endosymbiosis is the current prevailing theory on the origin of certain organelles—mainly the mitochondria and chloroplasts—in the cells of eukaryotic (e.g., multicellular) life. The theory is that the organelles were originally entirely separate single-celled organisms that were eaten by the eukaryotic cell but not digested properly. When the larger cell divided, so would the organelles, and so they were passed onto descendants without any immediate genetic change. In the course of evolution, most of the organelles' DNA was deleted or outsourced into the nucleus of the host.
    • Further, the organelles provide an energy source that was not previously available, so it could be argued that the cells were given superpowers by something that they ate, which was then passed on to their descendants.
  • In the late 1800s, there were several experiments to test Lamarck's theories, including one carried out in Germany that involved cutting off mice's tails to see if their children would be born with shorter, or no, tails.
    • As Isaac Asimov (or Carl Sagan?) has pointed out: Jewish boys have been circumcised for many generations, but still every Jewish boy is born with a foreskin. The exception is when they're aposthic. However, that isn't hereditary, rather it's a rare mutation, though it was once upheld as evidence for both Lamarckianism and blending inheritance.
    • The other classic example is hymens. Most women are born with an intact hymen even though every single one of their female ancestors had her hymen ruptured.
  • Several percent of human genome is Endogenous retrovirus DNA. One of our ancestors got infected by a retrovirus, which made its way into the said ancestor's germ cells. Bingo! Now his/her children inherit the virus DNA with the parent DNA, until this day. Some of the endogenous retrovirus DNA has since mutated and became junk DNA sensu stricto, but some of those viruses are actually still active and facilitating mutations and evolution, for better or for worse (like helping the embryo implant in the womb or playing a role in several diseases). It is highly unlikely the original infection was via a spider bite, though, or it would be a rare Lamarckian Harsher in Hindsight. Gene therapy exploits these viral vectors' ability to integrate themselves into hosts' DNA to make LEGO Genetics possible, in order to cure genetic diseases forever or make Transhuman Designer Babies.
  • This was briefly thought to have occurred with second-generation phocomelia, a congenital deformity primarily seen in infants whose mothers used thalidomide during pregnancy. Although the damage inflicted on these unborn children was environmental in origin, a small number of phocomeliacs subsequently grew up, married one another, and (rarely) produced phocomeliac children. Further investigation subverted this trope, revealing that children who'd been deformed by thalidomide had already been genetically predisposed to suffer such developmental flaws in response to chemical contaminants, and their second-generation children inherited a double dose of that susceptibility, making them subject to phocomelia even in the absence of thalidomide.
  • Analysis of adopted Korean War orphans showed a surprising amount of genetic influence over the life of the child. The education level of the adopted parents had a puny effect on the adopted child's education (each year of maternal education translated to a four-week boost to the child), and the adopted parents had no effect at all on the child's adult income.
    • That's not necessarily genetic, though. We know that the impact of poverty, malnutrition, and stress on fetal development is vast, and that this continues to affect health and intelligence in adulthood.
  • Microbes use a set of molecular tools referred to as CRISPR to integrate segments of viral DNA into their own DNA, enabling them to recognize and fight off infections by that viral DNA at a later time. Because these modifications are spliced directly into the microbes' own genome, the resistance is passed down to subsequent generations.

Alternative Title(s): Inheritance Of Acquired Traits, Lamarckian Evolution