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This chapter will look at the ways in which members of a family may be similar or different from one another. It will consider the things that we are able to see easily and also things that are not so easily visible.

Who do you look like?

Has anybody ever told you that you look like one of your parents? Maybe you remind people of a grandparent, an aunt or uncle. Have people ever confused you with your brother or sister? Why do you think this happens?

This happens because members of a family often have several characteristics or features in common. These can include things that we are able to see obviously. They can also include things that are not so easily seen.

Common features

Family members can share features that are easy to see like the colour of their hair, the colour of their eyes, whether or not their ear lobes are attached and the ability to roll their tongue into a tube. They can also share traits that are not able to be seen, such as their blood type. See image 1


It is also possible for some features to seem like they 'miss' a generation. A child might look more like one of their grandparents than their parents. They might have the same hair colour, eye colour or other feature in common with a relative who is not their parent. See image 2


Sometimes instead of having the same traits or features, family members can be very different from one another. Two parents with dark hair may have a child with red hair. Maybe both parents have brown eyes but they have a child with blue eyes. Some differences exist between all people in the world.

It's a big world

It has been estimated that there are about 6.5 billion people in the world today and most of them share very similar characteristics. Most people have two eyes, two arms, two legs and have a face much the same as everybody else. Even with all of these similarities, there are no two people who are exactly the same. Why is this so?

This is because there are several features that develop differently in each person. These include things like fingerprints, the muscle pattern of the iris (the coloured part of the eye) and the pattern of blood vessels on the retina (the back part of the eye). These differences are unique in each person and mean that no two people on the planet are exactly the same. See image 3

It's not just people

The idea of family members having similar features is not restricted to people. For a long time animals have been bred to have features similar to their parents. This idea is very important in horse racing, for example, where a champion horse will be considered more likely to breed other champion horses. See image 4

The idea of inheriting traits has been used in animal breeding for hundreds, even thousands of years. Animals like dogs and cats have been bred over a long time to develop different skills and behaviours. This idea has also been used to breed farm animals like beef and dairy cattle.


We can see that it is possible for us to inherit characteristics or traits from our family members. The way that we look can be influenced by the way that family members, like our parents, look. This idea has also been used over time to breed animals that are suited to specific things.

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Question 1/5

1. How has the idea of inheriting traits been used in relation to animals?

It has been used to make people smarter.

It has been used in animal breeding.

It has been used to make people stronger.

It has been used to make people lazy.


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