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Name: Jac
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Question:
How does one explain the advantage of the evolution of mammals whose young are completely dependent upon parents for survival?


Replies:
I always try to imagine what advantage such an adaption would confer. I learned this approach by reading Darwin's books...it is how he approached these interesting questions. Ask first what goes on in the longer developmental period of mammals. Let's look at humans. The maturation period is about 15-20 years. In this period, adults nurture at first only. Later, they do not only nurture but also teach or hand down knowledge...this is everything from how to eat, swim, and subsist, to social values and what it means to be a good parent, mate, etc.

Pf


That is a debate among scientists, but I will give you some reasons why there is an advantage. First off, the young have a constant food source, while those who are left to take care of themselves do not always find the needed sustanance. Secondly, they have parental protection. Many sea turtles are eaten while finding their way to the sea and continuing to grow up. The frequency of mammal babies being eaten is lower due to parental protection. Also, by having parents, they have the ability to learn behaviors, some of which their great grandparents might not have known, thereby passing down more and more knowledge with each generation. For example, there was a study done a few years back that found only one monkey who could use a branch to get bugs out of logs. None of the other monkeys of the same species did this. Within 5 years, every monkey in the area was observed using branches to get at bugs in logs. That learned knowledge was picked up by the other monkeys who will in turn teach this to their children. Reptiles do not obtain knowledge like this. These are just a few points, I'm sure there are more.

Grace Fields


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