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In biology, altricial species are those in which the young are underdeveloped at the time of birth, but with the aid of their parents develop in spurts after birth. The word is derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
root ''alere'', meaning "to nurse, to rear, or to nourish" and indicates the need for young to be fed and taken care of for a long duration. By contrast, species whose young are immediately or quickly mobile are called ''
precocial California quail chick (''Callipepla californica''), a precocial chick In biology, precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. The opposite developmental strategy is called ...
''.


Scope

In
bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all species of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With ...

bird
and
mammal Mammals (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, Development ...

biology
, altricial species are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile, lack hair or
down Down most often refers to: * Down, the relative direction opposed to up * Down (gridiron football), in American/Canadian football, a period when one play takes place * Down feather, a soft bird feather used in bedding and clothing * Downland, a typ ...
, are not able to obtain food on their own, and must be cared for by adults; closed eyes are common, though not ubiquitous. Altricial young are born helpless and require care for a length of time. Altricial birds include
heron The herons are long-legged, long-necked, freshwater and coastal bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a ...

heron
s,
hawk Hawks are a group of medium- diurnal birds of prey Birds of prey, also known as raptors, include species of bird that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates that are large relative to the hunter. Additionally, they have Bird vision, keen ey ...

hawk
s,
woodpecker Woodpeckers are part of the family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and ...

woodpecker
s,
owl Owls are bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of Eggshell, hard-shelled eggs, a high Metabolism, meta ...

owl
s,
cuckoo Cuckoos are s in the Cuculidae family, the sole in the order Cuculiformes . The cuckoo family includes the , , s, s, s, s and . The coucals and anis are sometimes separated as distinct families, the and respectively. The cuckoo order Cuculi ...

cuckoo
s and most
passerine A passerine () is any bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all species of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), bi ...
s. Among mammals,
marsupial Marsupials are any members of the mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in ...
s and most
rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republi ...

rodent
s are altricial.
Domestic cat The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic Domestic may refer to: In the home * Anything relating to the human home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for an individual, group or famil ...

Domestic cat
s,
dog The dog or domestic dog (''Canis familiaris'' or ''Canis lupus familiaris'') is a Domestication, domesticated descendant of the wolf which is characterized by an upturning tail. The dog Origin of the domestic dog, derived from an Pleistocene ...

dog
s, and
primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutherian mammal constituting the Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic order (biology), order Primates (). Primates arose 85–55 million years ago first from small Terrestrial animal, ...

primate
s, such as
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes ...

human
s, are some of the best-known altricial organisms. For example, newborn domestic cats cannot see, hear, maintain their own body temperature, or gag, and require external stimulation to defecate and urinate. The giant panda is notably the largest placental mammal to have altricial, hairless young upon birth. The larval stage of insect development is considered by some to be a form of altricial development, but it more accurately depicts, especially amongst
eusocial Eusociality (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mil ...
animals, an independent phase of development, as the larvae of bees, ants, and many
arachnid Arachnida () is a class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Class (philosophy), an analytica ...

arachnid
s are completely physically different from their developed forms, and the pre-pupal stages of insect life might be regarded as equivalent to
vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all species of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals Heterotroph, consume organic ma ...
embryonic development. A hastier alternative is employed by precocial animals, in which the young have open eyes, have hair or down, have large brains, and are immediately mobile and somewhat able to flee from, or defend themselves against, predators. For example, with ground-nesting birds such as
ducks Duck is the common name for numerous species of waterfowl Anseriformes is an order (biology), order of birds that comprise about 180 living species in three families: Anhimidae (the 3 screamers), Anseranatidae (the magpie goose), and Anati ...

ducks
or
turkeys The turkey is a large bird in the genus ''Meleagris'', native to North America. There are two extant turkey species: the wild turkey (''Meleagris gallopavo'') of eastern and central North America and the ocellated turkey (''Meleagris ocellata ...
, the young are ready to leave the nest in one or two days. Among mammals, most
ungulates Ungulates (pronounced ) are members of a diverse clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "branch"), also known as a monophyletic group or natural group, is a group of organisms that are monophyly, monophyletic—that is, composed of a com ...
are precocial, being able to walk almost immediately after birth. Beyond the precocial are the
superprecocial Image:Quail chick 02.jpg, California quail chick (''Callipepla californica''), a precocial chick In biology, precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. The opposite develop ...
animals, such as the
megapode The megapodes, also known as incubator birds or mound-builders, are stocky, medium-large, chicken-like bird Birds are a group of s constituting the Aves , characterised by s, toothless beaked jaws, the of eggs, a high rate, a four- ...
birds, which hatch with full flight feathers. Some
ecological niche In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms ...

ecological niche
s require young to be precocial for survival, such as
cetaceans Cetaceans (from la, Cetus (mythology), cetus, lit=whale, from grc, κῆτος, translit=Cetus (mythology), kētos, lit = huge fish, sea monster) are aquatic mammals constituting the infraorder Cetacea (). Key characteristics are their fully aq ...

cetaceans
: restricted to water, and immobile, their helpless young would quickly drown.
Human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A speci ...

Human
children, and those of other primates, exemplify a unique combination of altricial and precocial development.
Infant An infant (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is the more formal or specialised synonym for the common term ''baby'', meaning the very young offspring of human beings Humans (''Homo sapiens'' ...

Infant
s are born with minimal eyesight, compact and fleshy bodies, and "fresh" features (thinner skin, small noses and ears, and scarce hair if any). However, this stage is only brief amongst primates; their offspring soon develop stronger bones, grow in spurts, and quickly mature in features. This unique growth pattern allows for the hasty adaptivity of most simians, as anything learned by a child in between their infancy and their adolescence is memorized as instinct; this pattern is also in contrast to more prominently altricial mammals, such as many
rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republi ...

rodent
s, which remain largely immobile and undeveloped until grown to near the stature of their parents.


Basis

Different animals employ different precocial and altricial strategies; as stated above, some employ elements of both strategies, and as a result the distinction between the two is by some held in question. The skill of the parents to provide care and attend directly to the pre-natal and post-natal development of their young appears to be associated. Precocial birds are able to provide protein-rich eggs and thus their young hatch in the fledgling stage – able to protect themselves from predators and the females have less post-natal involvement. Altricial birds are less able to contribute nutrients in the pre-natal stage; their eggs are smaller and their young still in need of much attention and protection from predators. This may be related to r/K selection; however, this association fails with a number of cases. In birds, altricial young usually grow faster than precocial young. This is hypothesized to occur so that exposure to predators during the nestling stage of development can be minimized. In the case of mammals it has been suggested that large, hearty adult body sizes favor production of large, precocious young, which develop with a longer gestation period. Large young may be associated with migratory behavior, extended reproductive period, and reduced litter size. It may be that altricial strategies in mammals, in contrast, develop in species with less migratory and more territorial lifestyles, such as Carnivorans, the mothers of which are capable of bearing a
Fetus A fetus or foetus (; plural fetuses, feti, foetuses, or foeti) is the unborn offspring that develops from an animal embryo An embryo is the early stage of development of a multicellular organism A multicellular organism is an organism tha ...

Fetus
in early stages of development and focusing closely and personally upon its raising, as opposed to precocial animals which provide their youths with a bare minimum of aid and otherwise leave them to instinct.


Terminology

In birds, the terms ''Aves altrices'' and ''Aves precoces'' were introduced by
Carl Jakob Sundevall Carl Jakob Sundevall (22 October 1801, Högestad – 2 February 1875) was a Sweden, Swedish zoologist. Sundevall studied at Lund University, where he became a Ph.D. in 1823. After traveling to East Asia, he studied medicine, graduating as Doctor ...
(1836) and the terms
nidifugousNidifugous ( ) organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, properties of life. It is a synonym for "Outline of life fo ...
and nidicolous by
Lorenz Oken Lorenz Oken (1 August 1779 – 11 August 1851) was a German people, German natural history, naturalist, botany, botanist, biologist, and ornithology, ornithologist. Oken was born Lorenz Okenfuss (german: Okenfuß) in Bohlsbach (now part of Offenbur ...

Lorenz Oken
in 1816. The two classifications were considered identical in early times, but the meanings are slightly different, in that "altricial" and "precocial" refer to developmental stage, while "nidifugous" and "nidicolous" refer to leaving or staying at the nest. The two strategies result in different brain sizes of the newborns compared to adults. Precocial animals' brains are fully developed at birth relative to their body size, limiting their knowledge largely to their instincts but providing them immediate access to their bodies. However, as adults, their brains do not develop any further, and they memorize little from birth to death. Altricial animals' brains are comparatively undeveloped at birth, thus their need for care and protection, but their brains immediately begin developing at birth and do so independently, adapting to individual circumstances, and hence as adults, altricial animals attain more versatile brains than their precocial counterparts, capable of strategic thought based on experience. Thus altricial species, ultimately, possess greater potential for skill and adaptability, which is notably a factor in human developmental success.


See also

*
Parental investment Parental investment, in evolutionary biology Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical pr ...


References

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External links


The altricial-precocial spectrum in birds
Animal developmental biology Bird breeding fr:Nidicole hr:Potrkušci i čučavci nl:Nestblijver