Genetic Memory

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Ripley's genes are all right too: They allow her reconstituted form to retain all her old memories, as if cookie dough could remember what a gingerbread man looked like.
Roger Ebert's review of Alien Resurrection

Genetics is a funny thing; we inherit all sorts of things from our parents while at times developing entirely different tastes, personality and abilities. In fiction land, you can pretty much discard that sentence: with the likes of Superpowerful Genetics, Lamarck Was Right and In the Blood, there's no limit to just how much a parent can influence (or more commonly, screw over) their children.

Genetic Memory takes that a step further, giving the child or clone the parents' memories. This is usually explained as the memories being hard coded into the parents' and thus the child's DNA, as if it were a VHS tape that the child could hit "play" on. There are four common variants for how this happens:

  1. Designer Babies may have these skills thanks to Lamarck Was Right with some help from an Evilutionary Biologist, seeking to make Ubermenschen or Super Soldiers.
  2. Clones and occasionally twins will outright get the original's knowledge, skills, powers, or what have you, sometimes without needing Genetic Memory (a very strange form of Twin Telepathy or supernatural soul affinity). The process of getting this memories can be disorienting, so it's not unusual for the clone to experience Resurrection Sickness due to this.
  3. Enlightened characters or energy beings can sometimes unlock these memories either via channeling ancestors rather than past lives or reading their DNA like a book.
  4. Alien species or diseases might have this naturally, or use advanced Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke or telepathy to do this.

Similar to "past life memories", except the soul is brand spanking new and not a reincarnation. In general serves as a Justification for Upgrade Artifact via Secret Legacy. Often a convenient Hand Wave for how young (and therefore marketably hot) characters can have specialist knowledge that would realistically take years of education. May manifest as Dreaming of Times Gone By.

At some point in history, the idea that memories were stored in RNA molecules, which are like DNA but not, entered the public consciousness, made camp, and refused to leave. While probably impossible, the popularity of this trope can be attributed to the Rule of Cool. However, this won't become a fully Discredited Trope until and unless someone actually succeeds in creating a viable clone of an adult human being.

Compare In the Blood, All Theories Are True. For non-genetic means of acquiring others' memories and skills, see Ghost Memory and Past Life Memories.

Examples of Genetic Memory include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • This was the purpose of Project F in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: to create a clone that retains all the thoughts of the original, letting one raise the dead in a way.
    • Also, the descendants of the ancient king Ingvalt (see Vi Vid) sometimes inherit his memories and martial arts knowledge. Heidi denies being an "extension of his existence" though.
  • Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock has a few of these, passed down from a parade of identical ancestors.
  • In the manga of Hades Project Zeorymer, Masato Akitsu seems to possess memories of the Zeorymer's construction as well as how to use it. It later turns out that Masato and Miku are actually NOT who you they think they are, but are in fact the original creator of the Zeorymer and his lover having been reverted 14 years ago into an embryonic state in order to avoid being killed, with Masato's old memories designed to re-activate upon contact with Zeorymer.
  • Cell from Dragonball Z was created from the DNA of Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Frieza, and King Cold, and knows all of their fighting techniques.
    • Taken to the ninth degree when Cell self-destructs and blows up King Kai's planet, also killing Goku—when Cell regenerates he knows the Instant Transmission technique that Goku employs. He somehow LEARNED the technique from Goku's CELLS.
  • In the manga Dragon Quest: Dai no Dai Bouken, it's said by the Big Bad that Dragon Knights have a "Genetic Battle Memory", that makes them remember every technique of their ancestors. The main character, Dai, gets this when he gets his father Baran's Dragon Crest, showing the use of, between other's, Baran's special technique Doruoora.
  • In the intro to Pokémon the First Movie, Dr. Fuji is trying to use cloning technology to bring his daughter Amber back to life. Before she dies, Ambertwo has all of the original Amber's memories.
    • In the ninth movie, the People of the Water have a genetic dream. After learning about it, Brock mentions "A memory written straight into your DNA? That's just... awesome...
  • In the manga Akumetsu, the protagonists inherit each others memories by way of machinery they use. This is a tool in the plot.
  • In Senki Zesshou Symphogear, it turns out that Fine will take over any of her descendants if they're exposed to a certain phonic wavelength.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Every single clone of Spider-Man ever made (and that's a lot), has Peter Parker's complete memories up to the time he was cloned. Even if the clone is evil or a woman or a giant scorpion.
    • The Venom symbiote and its spawn seem to have the ability to selectively pass on memories of a past host to a new one.
  • Wolverine and Sabertooth are not related, but according to Wolverine: Origins (no, not the movie), both are part of a prehistoric race of wolfpeople who fought each other for millions of years because they have a different hair color, and this battle has been watched over since the beginning by someone who started out as an amino acid in the primordial ooze.
    • May this never be spoken of again.
  • An issue of Aliens depicts the gestating Xenomorphs as experiencing an eerie blend of alien race-memory and the individual memories of the host they're growing inside.
  • Rosie in Elf Quest: The Rebels was created by mixing some human genes with genetic material pulled from a preserver corpse. She seems to retain the preserver memories.
  • The 9-2010 issue of the Dutch version of Donald Duck magazine insists on "memory genes" passed on subconsciously by the parents. Somewhere, a biology teacher is crying.

Film[edit | hide]

  • John Carpenter's The Thing had genetic memory. One of the 3rd or 4th generation ones was building a spacecraft in the basement of the Antarctic base.
    • Questionable how much this counts, as the Thing was essentially one entity that split up into multiple bodies. As such, its memories could have merely been retained, not rebooted from its genes.
  • The film version of Aeon Flux is centered around a futuristic society of clones whose DNA are stored in an archive. Whenever a clone dies, their replacement gets implanted into a pregnant woman and is reborn. It is implied that genetic memories of people's past lives are transmitted this way and that the accumulation of said memories is slowly driving humanity insane.
    • Interestingly, this was not the case with the Goodchild brothers, whose memories were not genetic but simply communicated from their previous versions in surprising detail. To the Goodchilds, it did feel like they have lived those past lives.
  • In The Fifth Element, Leeloo's DNA was explicitly stated to be vastly more complex than regular DNA, which allowed her to retain her knowledge of her native language after she was regrown from her severed hand.
  • Altered States deals with this.
  • The original cut of Superman IV featured this: Nuclear Man is actually a clone of a previous Nuclear Man, and his knowledge of Superman and infatuation with Lacy are both inherited from the first.
  • As mentioned in the quote, Ripley in Alien Resurrection.
    • Also the Xenomorphs as a species. Ripley 8's genetic memory was somehow the result of the cloning process mingling her physiology with some of the traits of the Xenomorph queen her predecessor had died carrying.
  • A variation of this exists with the immortals in the Underworld films, where a vampire or a lycan can gain some memories of any other immortal he or she drinks from. Additionally, the fledglings experience some memories of their makers. Every time a vampire Elder rises from slumber, his or her predecessor orders his or her memory before passing it via blood as an update of sorts on the current events. Once Marcus becomes a hybrid, he can apparently clearly read any memory he chooses from blood, which is a skill even the Elders lack. Of course, this could be simply because he is the progenitor of all vampires.
  • In The Island Lincoln Six Echo and some of the other clones have inherited faint memories from their originals, the main significance being that he can copy Tom Lincoln's Scottish accent perfectly and the rest of his "generation" is almost incinerated as "flawed".


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Englishmen apparently created the game cricket out of distorted racial memory of the Krikkit Wars.
    • It wasn't just the name, though. The Krikkit preferred to throw spherical bombs by hitting them with sticks. The fact that humans turned it into a game was not received very well by the galactic community.
  • In the novel Planet of the Apes, the ape scientists in the Encephalic Section access the memory of several humans in an experiment on one woman.
  • In the original Clan of The Cave Bear, the Neanderthals were portrayed as having racial memories, which was supposed to both make up for their lack of verbal skills and imagination and keep them socially and "technologically" stagnant.
    • Dougal Dixon gives a Shout-Out to this in Man After Man, in which Homo mensproavodorum evolves Genetic Memory thousands of years after its ancestor, Homo sapiens sapiens, has died out. Also a bit of a Take That, as reliance on hereditary memory does have its limitations in a changing world: the first hominid to possess this capability travels for hundreds of miles in search of a lush woodland she "remembers", only to find that it's been reduced to a forest of dead, leafless trunks. She survives, but her mate doesn't make it.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's seminal Childhood's End, the alien Overlords, when they reveal themselves, are the very model of devils: leather wings, red skin, horns, tail. Everybody figures that they are in fact the source of devil myths, through some encounter back in mankind's history remembered through racial memory.
    • Turns out to be a case of Genetic Foreshadowing. The Overlords play a role in mankind's ultimate extinction, an event so traumatic for the humans of the future that it somehow echoes back into the past.
  • Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon books involve an alien virus with this trait.
  • One of the alien lifeforms in Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth Novels has a literal genetic memory, in that the parent passes on the rapidly changing hunting methods of its main predator to the offspring, which receive no parental care and fend for themselves as soon as they emerge from their egg-equivalent.
  • Dodged around in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Clones that go through the Spaarti treatment, going from nothing to a functioning adult in a year or less, are indoctrinated or given the prime clone's memories through some kind of pre-decanting process which is never really described, but it's definitely not genetic. At one point an Ithorian who killed someone, a major taboo for his culture, felt guilty enough to make two clones, and when they appear briefly in a novel they're just that Ithorian's twin human sons. Clones are also not the same as the originals, Palpatine with his Body Surf notwithstanding. Timothy Zahn, a prominent writer, is on record saying that he might one day bring back a clone of Thrawn, but said clone will be fully aware that he isn't Thrawn, and might not have the same personality or genius. He'll also be aware of the crushing expectation everyone will have for him to live up to the original.
    • The 'verse does hold that some fears and likes are genetic - a couple of clones believe Jango was claustrophobic, for example. That's a little less far fetched than full-fledged memories.
  • The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers of the Dune series are capable of calling upon their genetic memories with the aid of extensive training to control and be aware of their own metabolism, and the use of a highly potent awareness enhancing drug. They are somewhat limited, since the training of the Bene Gesserit leaves them with a mindset which prevents them from accessing the memories of their male ancestry, and the techniques (which were developed over the course of several centuries and take a lifetime to be taught) cannot be taught to men. The drug also kills anyone without the training to alter it within their body. The Bene Gesserit thus initiated a breeding program over ten thousand years to create a man who could access the full memories of his entire ancestry.
    • Gholas, essentially the corpses of dead people brought back to life by Tleilaxu science, are memory-less but the Tleilaxu learn in Dune Messiah that a strong trauma can restore their memories. That's reasonable, but later this even works for clones, and reaches its ultimate heights in Heretics of Dune where a clone of Duncan Idaho manages to gain the memories of every other clone that's ever been made of Duncan Idaho.
  • The central character in Piers Anthony's Orn is a large omnivorous flightless bird, which is less intelligent than a person but has Genetic Memory going back to the earliest vertebrates.
  • Averted in Gillian Cross's The Demon Headmaster series of children's books. The genetics-themed entry in the series ends with the death of the villainous Headmaster, with a hint that a clone of him will be regrown. The fact that said clone does not have the original's memories is acknowledged in the following novel (the Internet-themed one).
  • Headies (highly intelligent psychic dog-like aliens) in the Noonverse have this naturally.
  • Weird example from Animorphs: In a near-death experience, Tobias starts having vivid flashbacks to the life of his father, Elfangor. He later mentions it to Ax, who says that Andalites used to believe in genetic memory but that it was long dismissed as superstition. What makes it weird is that it clearly has some genetic and some non-genetic component, as Tobias is not from a genetics perspective Elfangor's son and experienced memories that happened after he was born, but at the same time he was only able to access them while in the body of Elfangor's brother Ax, who is genetically his brother.
  • In "Mask of Circe", one of the Henry Kuttner's novels, the hero (who lived in XX century) had achieved the memories of his ancient ancestor - Jason (the mythologic character) through some kind of science experiment - and, although it's hilarious, it was used skilfully, and the novel is just great.
  • A Doctor Who novelization had the whole idea of RNA being used for memory storage. Justified/Lampshaded when Martha points out that the theory has been discredited, and the Doctor replies that he's sort of generalizing, as the creature in question has Bizarre Alien Biology that transfers memories through a substance sorta-like RNA, only not.
  • The Wheel of Time has what is known as "the old blood", a phenomenon which results in people having their ancestors' memories and spontaneously shouting battle cries of ancient nations in a dead language. Mat Cauthon is has it particularly strongly. Some characters also obtain memories from their past lives or those of other people in ways unrelated to genetics.
  • Though it's never explicitly stated, the Vord from the Codex Alera appear to have this. At the very least, the Vord Queen knows exactly what she is, what her purpose is, and how to use all her abilities despite never having met a single other member of her species since hatching that wasn't one of her own offspring. Later on, she occasionally references events from the ancient history of the Vord as though she were there, even though that would be impossible considering her youth.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, fire lizards (the genetic ancestors of dragons) have a way of remembering things that happened far, far in the past that defies any explanation other than this. Interestingly, groups of fire lizards can transfer entire sets of memories to each other psychically, and large groups of them can also communicate in a similar manner with humans.
    • Not really the only plausible answer, as we later learn that firelizards don't age. They're also psychic with an implied hive mind, and can teleport through space-time... so yeah. There are three or four other canon options for how they do it.
  • In Jack London 's short novel Before Adam the protagonist tells us his dreams of the life of one of his distant ancestor, an early hominid. He explains that these are genetic memories, and that the reason his are so clear and specific is he is a "freak". (He specifically denies they could be the result of reincarnation, and explains why.)
    • In The Call of the Wild Buck occasionally has dreams of primitive humans and there are several references to his ancestors telling him how to survive.
  • In Jeff Long's Year Zero, the clones produced from religious relics dated to around the time of Jesus's death all have intact memories of their life prior to death, as does a Neanderthal clone.
    • In Long's other book The Descent (not to be confused with the 2005 movie), a subterranean hominid species known as the Hadal are capable of inheriting genetic memories from previous generations. In one scene, a deceased Hadal also passes their consciousness and memories to a human's body through an electrical signal transmitted by touch. It is implied that this is how the Big Bad, Satan, has survived since the beginning of humanity.
  • Frank Schätzing's The Swarm/Der Schwarm features a sea dwelling hive mind of single cell organisms known as the Yrr. It is suggested that the Yrr remember events from millions of years ago either by actively coding memories into their DNA or membranes/proteins or by acting somewhat like a huge brain i.e. defective cells within the neural network are constantly replaced with new cells which are given information from other neural network cells that have yet to be replaced in order to maintain memories.
  • Before the "RNA memory" theory was discredited, Larry Niven used it as a teaching device in his short story "Rammer" and its novel expansion, A World Out of Time.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Rise of the Iron Moon, Purity dreams of a longago ancestor.
  • The Tholians in the Star Trek Novel Verse. Encoded in their crystalline molecules is every memory of their people, dating back to the first moment of sapience. Many are buried deep, of course, not generally available to a given individual unless they're brought to the fore by powerful emotional or psychic triggers. Due to the short lifespan of members of many Tholian castes, memories and experience are often "uploaded" to the next generation from the pool of ancestral memories. This is one reason why Tholians hold grudges for an uncomfortably long time - the memories are fresh in their minds for generations.
  • In The Host, when the aliens (or "souls" what have you) reproduce, the mother allows herself to die to have a bunch of alien babies and they are said to retain the memories of the mother.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Goa'uld on Stargate SG-1 explicitly have this, and it is conscious: A Goa'uld queen chooses what memories she transmits to her children.
    • In one episode where O'Neill learns of this, he asks if that includes remembering their conception, and then states that that's probably why all the Goa'uld are so pissed all the time.
    • Several episodes deal with the concept of a Harsesis: a child of two Goa'uld-implanted humans. Such a child would be a human with the complete genetic memory of both Goa'uld lines, and a major threat to Goa'uld domination. One episode has Shifu, a Harsesis, explain the need to keep that part of him suppressed to Daniel by causing him to relive a possibility of getting some of these memories and slowly turning evil.
    • In "Prototype", a genetically-engineered human named Khalek is found in one of Anubis's secret labs. It turns out that Anubis combined the Harsesis concept with Nirrti's hok'tar research to create a host that would have Goa'uld genetic memories (and their "evilness") and have superhuman abilities such as telepathy and telekinesis. Interestingly, Neil Jackson, who played Khalek, would later go on to play another telekinetic in Push.
  • There's an episode of Andromeda with a race of people who have this, and later the Body Horror that hatches from them.
  • On Star Trek: Enterprise, Phlox cloned Trip, and the clone had all of Trip's memories. Nowhere else in Star Trek were humans ever shown as having genetic memory.
    • Because that wasn't a cloned human, that was some kind of a symbiotic life form what absorbs memories with the genes too.
      • While it is true that Sim was not a clone, Phlox explicitly mentions human genetic memory as the reason he had Trip's memories. This is probably why Sim couldn't access Trip's adult memories until he had aged appropriately.
    • Though he at least has the decency to be surprised about it.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Favorite Son", Harry Kim suddenly starts knowing things he shouldn't, such as that an alien ship is about to attack Voyager. It turns out he has the DNA of the alien Taresians, and his new knowledge comes from that DNA.
    • Except that it turned out that it was an elaborate trap by the Taresians to lure Harry (and any other male they could get their hands on) in, to steal their life force. Without their tampering, Harry had about as much genetic similarity to the Taresians as we do to lizards.
  • In the Doctor Who serial The Invisible Enemy, The Doctor creates clones of himself and Leela, who have the memories of their originals.
    • K-9 and the Doctor do explain that these clones are really more like a biological photocopy than proper clones, hence their shortened lifespans
    • In Frontios, Turlough has bad BSOD when his ancestral memories of the bad guys come back.
    • The Wirrrn from The Ark in Space have racial memories.
    • By the late 20th century, humanity has genetic memories of Kronos, the being (or one of them) that destroyed Atlantis thousands of years ago. One of the scientists working on the Master's TOMTIT in The Time Monster recognised Kronos without ever seeing it before.
  • Farscape had a device that "twinned" the target, creating a duplicate that was perfect in every way. Exactly how it worked isn't precise—it have been a subatomic-particle-by-particle reconstruction rather than genetic memory—but the memory and personality were identical.
    • For some reason, the Scarrans believe that they can extract wormhole knowledge from an embryo in Aeryn's womb. The kid doesn't even have a brain yet. Give it a break.
  • Subverted in Jekyll, where the modern Mr. Hyde experiences a rush of memories from his alter ego, then unexpectedly flashes back to the ORIGINAL Jekyll in Victorian times and verbalizes this to the observing scientists. "Genetic memory doesn't work like that." "Of course not, maybe he's got something else. Something better."
  • Likely unintentional Subversion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. An early episode has Odo wondering about his people, feeling that his strong sense of justice is a racial memory, giving him an idea of the kind of people they are. His people are in fact a group of brutal oppressors who often engage in genocide. That being said, they do have the ability to transfer information through touch, but it applied to his sense of order, not justice.
    • The episode where the crew finds an infant Jem'haddar includes the child spontaneously demonstrating complete language skills in a matter of hours. The doctor notes that it would be impossible for him to have learned that from simple observation, so it MUST be some kind of implanted genetic memory (the Jem'haddar were in fact created by genetic engineering). Apparently, in the Trek-verse, genetic memory is more feasible than advanced language learning.
  • This is precisely the main plot of the episode Aubrey in the 2nd season of The X-Files. A female police officer that was adopted begins to remember and reproduce the slayings committed by a grandfather she never knew, who was a serial killer.
  • Perhaps not a true example but an honorable mention: In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "We'll Always Have Paris," Data and Geordi talk about the pseudo-scientific of this trope (specifically the believed role RNA plays in memory). It's possible most of the "scientific understanding" that allows this trope to prevail comes from this episode.
    • In the Expanded Universe, the Federation even has the technology to use RNA therapy as a teaching tool. In Spock's World, McCoy mentions having used RNA therapy to learn the Vulcan language (hence, he picks up certain nuances that Kirk, using the Universal Translator, misses)
  • Roswell also plays with this. The four hybrids in the series are in fact the clones of their previous selves: the king, the queen, the king's sister and his second in command. The aliens' original plan was for them to fully remember who they were, and went back to free their people. Of course, it backfired, since the hybrids emerged too young and with no memory of their home planet, their purpose here, or even their powers. Through the series, they do remember brief aspects of who they were, but they rarely seem to embrace it, rather being afraid of what it meant to "be" somebody else.
  • On The Invisible Man, human genetic memory is encoded in "memory RNA", but can only be accessed by someone with a Quicksilver gland in their head. This led to problems when Fawkes started to be affected by the memories of the gland's first owner.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game) adventure The Fungi From Yuggoth, both the archvillain and the player characters experience an awakening of ancient genetic memories stored in their DNA.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has some creatures with this trait.
    • The underground sea-dwelling Eldritch Abominations known as Aboleths exhibit this in Dungeons & Dragons (3rd edition, anyway). Each of them inherits every single memory from its parent, resulting in a staggering amount of information being in their head at birth, and allowing two Aboleths to see how they're related based on how far back their memories diverge. What's really creepy is that these memories go back farther than the creation of the world...
      • Aboleths gain the memories of creatures they eat. And, like the Goa'uld, have genetic memory that reaches back eons. They remember a time when they ruled the world. They are understandably bitter about the current state of affairs.
        • They in fact can remember a time before gods came along and created the world.
    • Multi-Armed and Dangerous insectoids Thri-Kreen ("mantis warriors") have racial memory which isn't readily available, but is awakened by some reminders, piece-by-piece. Includes necessary skills like their language (spoken and written), how to make construction material from saliva, typical designs based on this material (like throwing weapon) and other interesting things.
    • Dragons basically are able to pass along edited instincts through their genes—so yes, if a dragon researches some new spell, its children can learn it automatically. Or, if some evil empire nearly kills the parent (before the eggs are created, obviously), the children will know to avoid that kind of thing without being told. Given that most dragons are probably not great parents this is one possible way they know things like language, that or magic.
  • In a rather squicky variation, Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 have the ability to absorb the memories of the dead by eating their flesh, particularly the brain.
    • Furthermore, each Space Marine is based on the genetic template of a Primarch, one of the first Space Marines. The Blood Angels chapter and their successors have a random chance of triggering the genetic memory of their Primarch's bloody death, which can drive them into an Unstoppable Rage.
    • Also, the Physical God Nightbringer had caused so much terror and death eons ago that it caused every single living thing since the to have a fear of death as part of its Genetic Memory, and why the most common depiction of death is the Grim Reaper. Oh, except Orks. They're immune to the whole fear of death thing.
    • The Orks also have all of their knowledge of machinery and science preprogrammed into their genetic code. Most of this does not take hold until in the presence of other Orks, or Orkish "teknology," however.
  • Werewolves from Werewolf: The Apocalypse also did the whole "be so bad you are remembered genetically" thing. In their case, any normal human starts panicking horribly when they see a werewolf's war form, and is unable to remember what happened afterwards.
    • The Mokole (were-lizards who used to be were-dinosaurs) are specifically referred to as the "Memory of Gaia" and all of them have access to genetic memory dating back as far as the dinos (and their OLD other halves, a humanoid dino race that died out during the mass extinction). They can access the memories of either side of their lineage, regardless of whether those were the memories of Mokole individuals to begin with.
      • These guys REMEMBER their ancestors guiding the evolution of mammals to produce something humanoid in order to replace their extinct other form (their bestial dino-side forms just kept evolving with other lizards, but they never used the old humanoid form anymore out of respect and grief).
    • Prometheans also have an abstract form of Genetic Memory in the form of the "Residual Memory" Merit. With it, they can draw upon skills favored by the body they occupy.
  • The advantage Racial Memory in GURPS is a vaguely defined version of this. In the Space book the weaker version is listed among the traits that a realistic alien could have.
  • In the setting Arcana Unearthed, being able to access one's genetic memory (called "akashic memory") is the stated skill of the rogue, and the akashic memory also plays a large role in the worldbuilding and flavor text.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The premise of the Assassin's Creed series is that human beings have genetic memories that can be unlocked and viewed via a device called an Animus. The modern-day Mega Corp that developed the device is using it to locate powerful hidden artifacts by kidnapping people with important ancestors and forcing them to relive their past lives. The process has side-effects, however. Prolonged use causes a "bleeding effect" wherein users take on skills possessed by their ancestors and experience memories while not in the Animus, eventually resulting in insanity. It is later revealed that genetic memory was deliberately programmed into humans by Those Who Came Before as part of a Plan allowing them to communicate across time with the modern-day descendants of the Assassins.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations puts a twist on this: since Desmond Miles' ability to view Altaïr's genetic memories ends with his firstborn son, Altaïr's subsequent memories are viewed secondhand, by means of the Masyaf Keys that Ezio uncovers during the course of his adventure. So in this case it's a Genetic Memory of Ezio viewing the stored memories of Altaïr.

  • In Metroid: Other M, the Ridley that appears in the game is a clone of the original, but it's extremely clear he knows EXACTLY who Samus is.
  • In Record of Agarest War 2, all main characters after Weiss inherit Weiss lost memories followed by his nightmares. Turns out, it's because they are all the same person right from the very beginning.
  • Weird Inversion in Kingdom Hearts. Xion is a clone made from Sora's memories essentially giving her Memory genetics.
    • Ditto Riku Replica, who also had their memories deliberately tampered with, creating false genetic memories.
  • The Dnyarri in Star Control 2. Although, their memory may just be a result of being in proximity to other Dnyarri, as they are telepaths. After all, who's to say that memories can't be instinctively psychically passed down through generations? At least, that's what we all * want* to think. The dialogue is unfortunately rather explicit about them being stored in genes. The writers should really leave us more elbow room to Fan Wank about Psychic Powers.
    • -< DON'T YOU MEAN TO TALK ABOUT FLOWERS? >-
    • There's also the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah, who have a sort of racial memory, if one would believe what they say when you engage in dialogue with them with a Dnyarri on board.
    • And the Mycon, although the accuracy of their memories seems to have been damaged in the hundreds of thousands of years their creators abandoned them.
  • The "ghosts" in BioShock (series) are explained as memories being passed around through ADAM. It started happening after the Little Sisters were deployed to collect loose ADAM from the dead.
  • In Xenogears, Fei and Elly are both the latest in the Single Line of Descent for each of their incarnations, and are explicitly said to have the unique ability to "encode memories in their introns". Furthermore, the potential to suddenly become the new Miang, memories and all, is inherent in every woman on the planet. Don't try and figure that one out.
  • The Martians of Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams were a strikingly memorable example. In the first stage of life, their bodies grow as plants, and in the process they absorb knowledge of their dead ancestors through the common "ancestral soil". In fact, a Martian body grown elsewhere is more or less a (mental) vegetable.
    • "Ancestral soil" here means compost made from the shed leaves of other martians, as well as dead bodies; some martians had as a profession to collect these for mulching. When the martians said they absorbed knowledge, they were speaking literally.
  • Hieda no Akyu from Touhou literally has this for her special ability, which she then uses to record the history of Gensokyo. She is the ninth child of a line that goes back for roughly 1200 years, so the only person that recognizes her in any way is the character that created Gensokyo, Yukari Yakumo.
  • In Wild ARMs XF, it's revealed that the Precursors programmed in all of their knowledge into general human DNA, including the Yggadrassil System, needed to keep Filgaia going.
  • I'm not sure if it should be here or under Superpowerful Genetics, but it's an explicit part of Pokémon that you can use Genetic Memory to pass on moves from parent to child, potentially unleashing a level 1 Mons with Hyper Beam on the world.
    • Dragon Quest Monsters uses the same trope, though if you have Blazemost, you simply start out with Blaze. You actually have to meet statistical requirements.
  • The homunculi Irisviel von Einsbern and her daughter Illyasviel in Fate/stay night and prequel Fate/Zero share the memories and experiences of their 'blueprint' originator, Lizleihi Justizia von Einsbern, who lived over two hundred years ago; at times, this will manifest like an alternate personality (eg. when Zouken met Ilya, who started to talk like Justizia) and is a plot point in both works.
  • Averted in Tales of the Abyss. The main Character, Luke, is a clone who started out not even knowing how to walk or talk.
  • In Psychonauts, one of the patients in the abandoned insane asylum is said to have been taken over by the genetic memory of his distant ancestor, Napoleon. Given how much Napoleon is presented as his Theme Park Version, it's more likely that this is more due to a combination of insanity and the strong psychic field generated by the area.
  • It's theorized by some that Gnomes in Warcraft universe have some form of genetic memory. They were originally created by the Titans to build and maintain their machinery and were later turned into organic creatures (along with Dwarfs and Vrykuls) by the Old God's Curse of Flesh. Several machines created by Gnomes are very similar to those found in ancient Titan complexes, suggesting they may have an innate ability to build such machines.
    • Or it could just be regular knowledge passed on through the generations. Gnomes lost the knowledge of their origins as titanic creations, but that doesn't mean they ever lost all of their technology and had to reinvent it from scratch. Gnomes seem to be much more interested in gizmos than history, so likely their educational system doesn't emphasize the latter so much.
  • In The Force Unleashed 2, Darth Vader creates a series of clones of Starkiller, the protagonist of the first game. Vader becomes disappointed that he can't seem to make a clone that doesn't remember Starkiller's lover, Juno Eclipse, as the imprinted love causes them to rebel against Vader and The Dark Side. The Dark Side ending reveals an evil clone that has Starkiller's memories, but has absolute contempt for everything Starkiller loved.
  • In Mass Effect, the queens of the Rachni, a species of sentient insectoids, inherit all memories of their mothers.
  • In the lore of EVE Online, the Intaki supposedly have this, though details are vague. In a process derived from their religious practices, called "Rebirth", the personality of a dying adult is transfered to a newborn. Today it's done with technology, from which came a lot of cloning tech. Spiritual leaders called "Idama" apparently/supposedly still do it the old way, and with training can access past memories.
  • In Overblood Milly (a clone) has all the memories of the original, justified because the husband of the original made her as a Replacement Goldfish.
  • The Tzhaar of RuneScape, being by far the most bizarre race in the game, give birth to children that have all the memories of all their ancestors. It's very important in lore as it's how they keep records of their history and retain knowledge of how their individual castes work.


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Amorphs in Schlock Mercenary; as the descendants of partially organic self-reproducing memory systems, the amorphs are able to pass memories between each other at will, and in most cases a child will have at least some of their parents' memories and personality traits (though an amorph parent can also deliberately craft their child's personality to resemble someone they admire, even if that person isn't an amorph). One of the reasons Schlock is unusual is that he was 'born' without any of the memories of the two amorphs he formed from, only retaining the overwhelming self-preservation instinct from the two combatants.
  • The Cyantian Chronicles: Neefla have genetic memories. Mostly. Sometimes a bloodline's memories won't get passed on to the next generation. Children born without the genetic memories are considered both a tragedy and a boone. While they lack years of knowledge, they have no preconceptions and are the greatest inventors and innovators of Neefla society.
    • This is actually a subversion, as the knowledge imparted is imparted during the birthing process.
    • The Rumuah who created the immigrant Cyantians also had genetic memories.
    • It's suggested that wolves of the Akaelae bloodline have this as well but they haven't displayed any unless dreams of running through the woods naked count.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Creepypasta "Genetic Memory" makes the claim that this is the reason humanity finds certain features like pale skin, dark, sunken eyes, elongated faces, and sharp teeth so frightening—hence why so many horror icons possess one or more of these features. The story then asks what could have happened long ago that made humanity so afraid of these features...


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Some argue the idea of instincts or Jung's proposed collective unconscious are a real life toned down example of the above. That said, the actual details of said collective unconscious "memories" are debatable.
    • In extremely vague sense this could be said to be true - the similarities in our brain-structure are genetic, and allow humans all across the world to share certain psychological traits regardless of culture.
      • This means that genetic memory is one of those annoying topics to categorize: it doesn't happen, and to the best of science's knowledge it has never happened, but it's not impossible (although the way it's sometimes presented in fiction probably is impossible).
      • In a loose sense, yes - genes do contain coded information about the past environments that an organism's ancestors lived in, if only we could interpret it. That said, it is important to remember that this is only the case because the ancestors who possessed those genes lived long enough to reproduce and pass them on, i.e. they had genes which helped them survive somehow, by "fitting" in to the environment. It certainly isn't because the genes knew what was going on outside. It's like saying mountains are memories of erosions - they are shaped by their own consequences on the world around them (i.e. the rising mountains in a continental collision counter the affect of the erosive forces of rain, but also increase rainfall on their slopes by blocking rain clouds blowing inland) and by the consequences of the world acting on them (i.e. the mountains are eroded in some weaker areas by the rains, while stronger areas last longer), but in the case of genes the process is just more complicated.
      • Although this is true of all known species at the moment, from a purely mechanical standpoint it would be perfectly possible to devise an organism that actually stored information about specific experiences in genes by actively modifying them during its lifespan. It's unlikely that such an organism could evolve without human intervention though since... there's not much point in it. However, ideas inspired by this subject are extremely interesting and relevant to machine learning and AI researchers working with genetic algorithms.
  • Planarian flatworms were thought to have genetic memory based on a certain experiment. One worm was taught to navigate a maze, then ground up and fed to a second worm. This second worm would then navigate the maze as well as the first with no practice. Later experiments proved that the second worm was following a scent trail; when placed in an identical but unused maze it showed no sign of the supposed genetic memory. Why? Because the second batch of worms in the original maze were simply following the scent/slime trails left by their predecessors.
    • A similar story has it that the second worm "ran a maze" faster (in this case, learned to associate a bright light with a shock) simply because it was better fed.
  • It takes the monarch butterfly several generations to travel to secluded areas of Mexico where they winter in a few specific groves of trees. It only takes one generation to return to the north, who follow the exact same path as their great great grandparents.