Every species has information necessary for individual and species survival hard-wired in its DNA. It’s all part of the evolutionary dictum of survival of the fittest. Some “know” to hang together in groups to ward off predators and survive; others “know” to hunt in packs to ward off group starvation. Some “know” to burrow into the ground to hide during the vulnerable sleep period; others “know” to climb the tallest trees for the same reason. Much of this behavior is ingrained; some is learned from other group members. Of course the ingrained knowledge is passed along but can the learned behavior be also?
So the question becomes: can learned fear be inherited? Can it be passed on to future generations? Can this fear alter the DNA of the individual and can this altered DNA be passed along to its offspring?
For mice, at least, it seems that it is. In an interesting study conducted at Atlanta’s Emory School of Medicine, mice were found to pass on learned fear to their offspring. And then to the offspring’s offspring.
I wonder which one of my parents passed on a fear of sharks? No, wait a minute, that was Jaws. Or perhaps it’s simply common sense.