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Can epigenetic structures cause a trait to manifest in a person if the trait is not already in the DNA? In all my readings I have yet to find a definitive statement that it is impossible.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not an expert on this and it's really complicated, so I'd rather not give an answer. But take a look at research on transgenerational epigenetic inheritance TEI. By chance I read the abstract of a paper today that might be of interest for you as well. Rawlik et al. conclude that differences in DNA methylation patterns in humans are mainly driven by genetic differences in cis - so the differences is actually 'DNA-driven'. $\endgroup$ – AlexDeLarge Jan 16 '17 at 18:32
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Yes, epigenetic changes does affect the phenotype. This is here the whole interest behind epigenetic. Environmental variation (incl. parental care) affect epigenetics which in turn affect the phenotype (incl. behaviour) of an individual. It is pretty much clear from the wikipedia definition of epigenetics

Epigenetics studies stably heritable traits (or "phenotypes") that cannot be explained by changes in DNA sequence.

The term "phenotype" (or "phenotypic") is actually present 3 times is the first small paragraph of the wikipedia article.

For example, you can read here on wikipedia an example of a study showing that maternal care affect epigenetic variations which in turn affects stress level later in life as measured by HPA.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please forgive my ignorance, but is the quote you cite equal to "Epigenetics studies stably heritable traits that cannot be explained by DNA"? $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Jan 16 '17 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Replace "DNA" by "DNA sequence" or "amino-acid sequence" and you're good. The term epigenetics is typically poorly defined but most often we are thinking of methylation occuring directly on the DNA (hence the importance of saying "DNA sequence" and not just "DNA") or on histone tails. The definition as presented might also make some people in the field of niche construction unhappy but this is a story for another time. You should have a look at this post for more information $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 21 '17 at 14:34

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