The shells of individuals within the bivalve mollusk species Donax variabilis show diverse coloration and patterning in their phenotypes.
Here the relation between genotype and phenotype is illustrated, using a Punnett square, for the character of petal color in pea plants. The letters B and b represent genes for color, and the pictures show the resultant flowers.

The phenotype (from Greek, Modern phainein, meaning 'to show', and typos, meaning 'type') of an organism is the composite of the organism's observable characteristics or traits, including as its morphology or physical form and structure; its developmental processes; its biochemical and physiological properties; its behavior, and the products of behavior, for example, a bird's nest. An organism's phenotype results from two basic factors: the expression of an organism's genetic code, or its genotype, and the influence of environmental factors, which may interact, further affecting phenotype. When two or more clearly different phenotypes exist in the same population of a species, the species is called polymorphic. A well-documented polymorphism is Labrador Retriever coloring; while the coat color depends on many genes, it is clearly seen in the environment as yellow, black and brown. Richard Dawkins in 1978[1] and then again in his 1982 book The Extended Phenotype suggested that bird nests and other built structures such as caddis fly larvae cases and beaver dams can be considered as "extended phenotypes".

The genotype-phenotype distinction was proposed by Wilhelm Johannsen in 1911 to make clear the difference between an organism's heredity and what that heredity produces.[2][3] The distinction is similar to that proposed by August Weismann, who distinguished between germ plasm (heredity) and somatic cells (the body).

The genotype-phenotype distinction should not be confused with Francis Crick's central dogma of molecular biology, which is a statement about the directionality of molecular sequential information flowing from DNA to protein, and not the reverse.

Difficulties in definition

The term "phenotype" has sometimes been incorrectly used as a shorthand for phenotypic difference from wild type, bringing the absurd statement that a mutation has no phenotype.[4]

Despite its seemingly straightforward definition, the concept of the phenotype has hidden subtleties. It may seem that anything dependent on the genotype is a phenotype, including molecules such as RNA and proteins. Most molecules and structures coded by the genetic material are not visible in the appearance of an organism, yet they are observable (for example by Western blotting) and are thus part of the phenotype; human blood groups are an example. It may seem that this goes beyond the original intentions of the concept with its focus on the (living) organism in itself. Either way, the term phenotype includes traits or characteristics that can be made visible by some technical procedure. A notable extension to this idea is the presence of "organic molecules" or metabolites that are generated by organisms from chemical reactions of enzymes.

Another extension adds behavior to the phenotype, since behaviors are observable characteristics. Behavioral phenotypes include cognitive, personality, and behavioral patterns. Some behavioral phenotypes may characterize psychiatric disorders[5] or syndromes.[6][7]

Biston betularia morpha typica, the standard light-colored peppered moth
B.betularia morpha carbonaria, the melanic form, illustrating discontinuous variation
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