Difference Between Genetics and Heredity

Genetics vs Heredity

Difference between genetics and heredity is confusing to someone mainly because these two terms are interrelated. That does not mean they contain the same meaning. Let us first look at what each term means. Humans like you and me share similar characteristics with our parents and kin, like all the other living beings do. How does this happen? This is because we received characteristics from our parents via DNA. This is the tool for storing and passing the information for the creation of an organism and its characters. In biology, this process is known as Heredity and the study of Heredity is known as Genetics. Understanding both terms are very essential for the people who study biology. Following few paragraphs will compare the terms Genetics and Heredity.

What is Heredity?

Heredity is the process of passing the characteristics of one generation to the next generation by means of sexual and asexual reproduction. These characteristics are stored as genes, a part of the DNA. But, all of the characters are not passed to offspring and all the characters found in the offspring are not from parental genes. During the reproduction, genes are shuffled during gametogenesis, the process of gamete formation. Hence, the offspring receives shuffled collection of genes that determine the appearance and the behavior of the individual. Also, changes in DNA structure during and after the reproduction process due to various intrinsic and environmental factors will affect the overall look and behavior. This is why we are similar to parents and kin yet different from each other. This whole process itself is the Heredity.

Difference Between Genetics and Heredity

Children share parents’ features because of heredity

What is Genetics?

Genetics is simply the study of Heredity. However, it cannot simply be defined as such. Because the area of Genetics is as massive as studying biology. Geneticists, the people who study genetics, have developed theories and tools to study the aspects of genetics. Understanding mechanisms that govern the appearance of a character from the information stored in genes, how genes are expressed, interaction among genes, introduction of genes from one organism to another, quantitative characters and their genes, etc. are the main branches of genetics. So, somebody would define that Genetics is the study of genes, which is also true. Nowadays, Geneticists are capable of sequencing whole Genome of anybody within few days. Advancements like these are very important to identify genetic diseases like diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer’s disease at early stages even at the embryonic period, and to cure those diseases via gene therapy. Pedigree of the patient is analyzed backwards to find out the onset of the disease, and to calculate the probability of the occurrence of the disease in future generations. All these are possible because of the various aspects under genetics.

 Genetics vs Heredity

Genetics is the study of heredity

What is the difference between Genetics and Heredity?

• Genetics is the study of heredity.

• Concept of heredity can be described across generations mainly from parents to offspring, while the genetics can be applied from parents to offspring as well as for kin and non-related organisms.

• Heredity is a concept but genetics is a collection of tools and theories.

• Advances in genetics are very important to understand heredity.

• Tools in genetics will be helpful to diagnose a disease while heredity is important to find out the onset of a genetic disease.

• Genetic predisposition may cause diseases that are not heritable.

• Study of mutations are a part of genetics and may or may not be heritable.


Images Courtesy: Father and son and Sex linked inheritance via Wikicommons (Public Domain)