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The Most Common Recessive Genes In Humans

It's time to bust the lid off some common misconceptions about recessive genes. First of all, when you hear the term "recessive genes," you probably think of physical characteristics in humans that are less common. But that's the wrong way to look at things. It's true that many recessive traits tend to be less common, but the fact is that many "normal" human features you see every day are actually recessive! And we've got a list of recessive human genes to prove it.

It works like this: A recessive trait is one that usually only manifests itself when there is no dominant gene present. For example, if your mom has red hair and your dad has black hair, chances are you're going to have black hair because the gene for that color is dominant. As it turns out, many traits we now take for granted are so common that the dominant gene is either not around as much or gone altogether. A few of the most common recessive genes in humans are ones you would think are dominant.

But let's see if we can surprise you a little. Think you can guess the most common recessive human genes? Take a look at our recessive human traits list, and see if we can shock you within the first five. 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Not Having Dwarfism

    You might be surprised to find that dwarfism is a mostly dominant trait. But that doesn't mean that those with dwarfism invariably have parents with dwarfism.

    According to the Tech Museum of Information: "Around 7 out of 8 cases of dwarfism result from DNA changes in the FGFR3 gene that appear out of nowhere. Literally. These changes (or mutations) happen in the sperm or the egg or very early on in development."

  • Photo: Orangeblue / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Susceptibility To Poison Ivy

    An immunity to poison ivy is actually a dominant trait

    Still, roughly 85% of the population shows the recessive trait and is allergic to poison ivy, and 50 million Americans per year have the rashes to prove it. 

  • Photo: Roman Königshofer / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

    Non-Freckled Skin

    Freckles are cute and kind of rare, but they're also a dominant trait! "If you have an active MC1R gene, your body produces more eumelanin, leading to darker hair and skin that protects against the sun," said "SciShow" host Hank Green.

    "If that gene is inactive then you’ll produce more pheomelanin, leading to fairer skin, blonde or red hair and a propensity for freckles."

  • Photo: World Travel & Tourism Council / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Being Tall

    Yes, being short is actually a dominant trait. But one gene alone doesn't determine height - thousands of genes are thought to contribute.