Babies Are Useless

I don’t want to knock my gorgeous baby daughter but it has to be said she is pretty useless. She is uncoordinated, sleepy, inattentive, forgetful and has no idea how to get her own food and no idea how to protect herself. Leave her on her own for a day and she would starve. And if there was a predator nearby (such as a fox or an eagle) she’d be snatched and eaten. Compared to many animals she is hopeless.

Baby rabbits are weaned off their mums when they are just three weeks old and can fend for themselves. Wildebeest calves, and many other grazing animals, are up and running from the word go, to avoid becoming dinner for nearby predators. Newborn dolphins are able to swim immediately. There is even a name for it – precocial – which describes animals that are active form birth, species that are physically mobile and able from the moment of birth or hatching. 

Precocial birds, like ducks and chickens, can often feed themselves as soon as mum shows them what is edible. There are even superprecocial birds such as the bush turkey, and scrub fowl that don’t need their parents at all and emerge from the nest fully feathered and able to fly, run, and claw.

 A Bush Turkey – smarter than my one year old

In case you are wondering, offspring that are helpless at birth – such as humans and bizarrely mice, are known as altricial.