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Recessive Super Genes

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

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

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


Examples:

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

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

    Films - Animated 
  • In Norm of the North, Norm and his grandfather have the ability to speak to humans, but Norm's father does not.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • Teen Wolf: Scott turns into a werewolf and discovers he gets it from his father's side. He never told him because their lycanthropy sometimes skips a generation and, with the way things were going, they thought they were in the clear. So until it manifested, there was no need to worry Scott.

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

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

    Tabletop Games 
  • In both Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Werewolf: The Forsaken lycanthropy is explicitly stated to be recessive, mating between werewolves and ordinary humans (and wolves in the earlier game) rarely produces werewolves. Mating with carriers of the werewolf gene, who can't shift but can develop some minor powers, has a much higher chance of making werewolves. In the former game two werewolves could breed but their progeny (called metis) had deformities from metaphysical inbreeding and were sterile, the latter has gone back and forth on whether anything happened when werewolves mated with one another.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, being a Navigator (a type of Psyker) is a recessive gene. As psykers are typically avoided by the general population and Navigators are very egotistical, this suits both parties just fine. However it also means that the Navigator Houses are extremely inbred.
  • The Forgotten Realms 3.5 Edition supplement Races of Faerun states that the Uneven Hybrid planetouched races (chiefly part-angel, mostly-human aasimar, part-fiend tieflings, and part-elemental genasi, though there are other combinations such as elf/fiend fey'ri) can sometimes have the Outsider portion of their bloodline go dormant. This leads to several generations of the base species that may then have the Outsider traits reemerge much later.

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

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dragon: Jake Long dragonhood skips generations in Jake’s family. Jake's parents are humans but he, his sister, and his maternal grandpa are dragons.
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, we learn that Gwen's paternal grandmother was an Energy Being with magic-like powers, which is the reason why she became so skilled with using magic. Gwen can also become an Energy Being herself when she needs a power boost. Her father's generation was skipped however, and neither her cousin Ben or her older brother Ken display signs of these abilities (not that the former needs them).
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Krumm's ability to produce a powerful stench has been passed down in his family for generations, but supposedly skips a generation, and thus his father does not possess the ability.
  • Juniper from The Life and Times of Juniper Lee is the Te Xuan Ze, the chosen guardian of the border between humans and monsters in Orchid Bay. This title originally belonged to her grandmother, Juniper's father having skipped that title and thus is unaware of the supernatural.

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