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Difference Between Genotype and Phenotype

phenotypeGenotype vs Phenotype

Genotype and phenotype are terms used to differentiate between the genetic makeup of an organism and the way it expresses itself. There are interesting differences between the two terms. Let’s find out what they are:

A genotype refers to the actual set of genes that an organism carries inside. When these genes are expressed under observable conditions, they are called phenotypes and the expressions are called phenotypic expressions. Interesting, isn’t it? Wondering how they are different? After all, how can a man be different from the genes he has inherited?

The fact is, phenotypes are dependent on the genes they inherit. However, their expression is also influenced by environmental factors. The influence of the environment modifies the role that the genes play to a certain extent. The expression of the genes, modified by environmental factors, produces a phenotype.

A genotype basically determines the type of traits that a phenotype can have. For instance, the genotypic traits of an organism will determine his susceptibility to a certain disease. However, the phenotypical aspect of the organism displays observable aspects of this disease. The symptoms related to the particular aspect of the disease, the presence or even the absence of such a disease are phenotypic expression.

Let us take up another example. It is the genotypic variation between XX or XY chromosomes that create the difference between the two sexes. Once again, the differences that you see before you are phenotypic, but the reason behind them is genotypic!

The complexity of the biological process determines the extent of environmental influence. The effect of the environment is greater on more complex processes. For instance, the development of a tooth in an infant is almost completely determined by genotypes. However, how long the tooth remains is more or less determined by environmental factors- for instance, dental hygiene, diet etc.

Let’s put it this way- the condition of the individual and the traits he is born with are determined by his genotype. Successive generations of organisms will also include these traits. However, the development of the infant from infancy to death is his phenotype-more or less determined by environmental factors.

Finally, every organism is a single genotype class. The only exceptions are identical twins. Even in these twins, there may be different phenotypes, though they belong to the same genotype!

In practical terms, the two terms are not used in an absolute manner. Their descriptions are used in a partial manner to explain certain characteristics in organisms.

1. Genotype decides the genetics and inherited traits of an organism, but phenotypes refer to the actual display of these traits
2. Genotypes are decided by inherited genes, while phenotype are determined by the effect of environmental factors
3. The genotype largely determines the ultimate phenotype of an organism.
4. The more complex a biological process, the more is the effect of environmental factors on it and therefore the chances of a predominant phenotype.

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1 Comment

  1. Genotype refers the genetic makeup of an organism which code for the phenotype. It is the sum of genes which are transmitted from parents to their offspring.

    Phenotype refers to the presence of observable physical characteristics of an organism. It is the result of the interaction an organism’s genetic makeup (genotype) and its surroundings.


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