I'm currently trying to describe a few species traits and group them. Here I found that I'm at a loss of correct words for the groupings. After searching a bit I found a good fitting with "beneficial traits" for traits that are enhancing specific races like extra sharp teeth, or the ability to fly.

But on the "other" side I have found no wordings that sounded fitting for negative species traits like a vulnerability to cold (as many snakes have).

So my question here is is there any such word for negative species traits?

  • We don't use race and racial of any animal except humans. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 22:42
  • @StoneyB tnx edited it. In my case racial would have been fitting as the text I'm writing is about different races in a RPG, but as that is not really of any importance to the question per se, I've changed it and replaced racial,... with species.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 22:45
  • 1
    @Sto We do, though your point is well-taken. :-) Aside from uses like the game mentioned: BIOLOGY a population within a species that is distinct in some way, especially a subspecies. "people have killed so many tigers that two races are probably extinct". Google define Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


Geneticists, physical anthropologists, and other biologists, etc., use maladaptive to describe such traits.

A maladaptive trait is a common expression.



The decriptor you might be looking for is


genetic vulnerability
inherent vulnerability

meaning a vulnerability which is passed down from one generation to another and "built-in".

Sickle cell anemia is considered a genetic vulnerability outside of malaria regions.
Chinese women are less genetically vulnerable to breast cancer.

Usually additional context is needed to link the defect or vulnerability to a particular race.

Snakes are susceptible to cold weather because they are genetically cold blooded.

Lower levels of skin cancer is a genetic trait among Blacks and people with darker skin color.

  • Could one of these be used in combination with the word "trait"? (Would be prefered but as I overlooked to mention that in the question itself this answer is good even so....I won't edit my question as that would be unfair now).
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 22:54
  • Yes, a trait is passed down through genes, additonal example in question.
    – Peter
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 22:58
  • A "defect", particularly a "genetic defect" is usually an abnormality, though. I think Thomas is asking more about "normal, but detrimental" genetic traits. For example, sickle-cell anemia is more common among people with African descent, a consequence of genetic traits that increase resistance to malaria.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 23:38
  • @Andrew I was thinking in terms of defects then being passed down, but you are correct that a defect originally is an abnormality. For example, people with near-sightedness generally have near-sighted offspring, but the acquisition of near-sightedness occurs within a single generation (when the defect occurs). Congenital blindness is a defect but does not necessarily get passed down.
    – Peter
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 0:02

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