Ashleigh Edmondston, of Ardgowan School, asks :-
Why are some animals born knowing exactly what to do?
Alex Davies, a vet at Massey University, responded.
Perhaps we could think about two examples, from rather different kinds of animals. Gannet chicks born at Cape Kidnappers, once they can fly, travel over water and spend two or three years off the coast of Australia. They travel alone, and eventually return, alone, to find a mate and breed at their birthplace. We know this because some of the birds are banded before they set off, some of these are found injured or dead in Australia, and others are seen again at Cape Kidnappers with their leg bands still in place. All the instructions for their migration must be in the chemical genetic code within the egg they hatch from.
The other example is a human baby. From an early age, a baby listens intently to the sounds made by other humans. These are remembered and mimicked, and eventually the child can make up words and link them to make sense and express ideas. A baby is born with a real drive to learn. The skill is inherited, but the rest has to be learnt. Learning is much more important for humans than for other animals. How much can you really teach a puppy or even a chimpanzee?
In studying how animals behave, we have to decide what is inherited and what is learnt. Find out about the behaviour of a hive of bees, and think about how this must come to be.