Parental Instinct

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Parental Instinct


(biology), the actions of animals that ensure or improve conditions of survival and development of their offspring.

Sometimes parental instinct is limited to nest-building (lairs, hollows) and the preparation of food for the yet unborn offspring. In such cases, the female never encounters her hatched young. For example, some wasps deposit their eggs on insects that they have paralyzed; the paralyzed insects serve as food for the larvae.

A higher type of parental instinct is care of the young, which is observed in two forms—passive and active. With passive care, the adult individual carries its eggs or young in folds, pouches, or special depressions in the skin. The young animals sometimes feed on discharges from the mother. Passive care characterizes a number of echinoderms, crustaceans, mollusks, spiders, fishes (seahorse, pipefish, some chromids), amphibians (obstetrical toad, Surinam toad), and lower mammals (echidnas, marsupials).

With active care, the adult animals perform specific actions associated with concern for their offspring: they establish a shelter, and they provide warmth for, feed, clean, and protect their young. In addition, many higher animals (birds and mammals) teach their offspring to find food and to recognize enemies. In many bird species, such as partridges, the mother attempts to distract the attention of an enemy that is threatening her young or her clutch. A herd of ungulates will encircle their young to protect them from attack by predators.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in classic literature ?
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