Transfer of characteristics from a parent to its offspring is explained in biology. When an adult male and female (of humans) who are displaced from their local environment to another (say, a different continent)for a considerable period of time, conceive and give birth to a baby, the newborn also shows some traits related to the people of the new locality . How is this explained?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have a reference of this actually happening ? Which traits are we talking about here ? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Mar 7 '17 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ Kindly add little more specifics into the question, such as 1) What do you mean by considerable period of time? 2) What kind of organism are you referring to? $\endgroup$ – Tushar Mar 7 '17 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ Off-springs are defined by the genes of their parents. Not the country they live in. Your claim (unless you can show a very good reference for it) is primarily opinion based. $\endgroup$ – Chris Mar 7 '17 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ Are those human offspring and parents ? Can you give examples of traits that a child of Asian parents would get from being conceived in Africa ? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Mar 7 '17 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ @beena benny if you observe a child who has traits of a local as well as the parents, keep in mind that marriage is a legal concept, not a biological one. $\endgroup$ – iayork Mar 7 '17 at 13:57

Genetic makeup can not vary with the place of conception, but certainly the way genes are expressed can change with change in place of conception. Such changes are called epigenetical changes. Epigenetic change is switching on or off of genes which can be achieved by various method:-

1) DNA methylation

2) Histone modification and

3) RNA associated gene silencing

In theory, change in place of conception, can result in silencing or activation of differential genes in foetus. In fact there is this nice article which discusses how maternal nutrition switches on or off six genes in foetus 1 and [2]. Even stress can cause such epigenetic changes [3]. These environment triggered changes may also result in change of phenotype. For example in mice, the agouti viable yellow (Avy) gene which is a retrotransposon and is found in upstream of the agouti gene. The Avy elements are generally methylated and hence are shut off but in Agouti mouse, they are unmethylated and therefore switched on, which leads to a yellow coat.Though this methylation or unmethylation in agouti mice has not been proved to be a result of environmental factor, but in a strict theoretical sense this can happen (with some or other phenotypic trait)

Two genetically identical mice but with epigenetic differences

1] Painter R.C., Roseboom T.J., Bleker O.P. Prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine and disease in later life: an overview. Reproductive Toxicology 20, 345-52 (2005).

2] Maternal nutrition at conception modulate DNA methylation of human metastatic epialleles(NCBI)

3] Exposure to stress even before conception cause genetic changes to offspring(science daily)

  • $\begingroup$ Your answer is a good one, but keep in mind OP's clarification in comments - they're talking about "visible traits like skin and hair colour, their texture, even facial features (the bone structure) to an extent." Do epigenetic modifications typically lead to changes in that kind of trait ? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Mar 7 '17 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ I probably missed out the comment section while answering the question. I will edit my question to include the aspect of visible traits. $\endgroup$ – Tushar Mar 9 '17 at 9:35

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