marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

infants of other species

Was pondering a matter after reading online someone maintaining at length that all, all, all infants regardless of species are helpless things that anyone can easily kill out of hand.

Hmmm. . . .

Well, in real life, there are altricial species, where the newborns (or newly hatched) are helpless and must be tended and fed and watched over by the parents to have any chance at survival at all.  But there are also precocial ones, that are born with their eyes open, and with the ability to move.  Ducklings, for instance, imprint on the mother duck exactly because she needs to lead them to water to chow down, rather than have them wander off -- and, of course, can imprint only because they can see.

At the extreme, there are superprecocial ones.  Birds that are hatched fully fledged and can often fly the same day as they hatch.

One wonders if you could have a precocial sapient race -- or even superprecocial.  There's the little detail that a precocial child has to have a lot of behaviors inbuilt rather than learnt; witness that a duckling can swim even if the farmer had the hen set the eggs (because she broods better than the duck), and will merrily swim off as the foster hen clucks madly at seeing her little hatchlings head off into the water.  On the other hand, dolphins and other cetaceans are precocial; they have to be, a cetacean that can't swim on its own is a cetacean that drowns.  Certainly, quite complex behaviors can be innate.  The first chipped stone tools show a remarkable lack of variety over all the continents and millennia they were made, and appear to have been as instinctive as a beaver's dam.  But by the same token, we note a major mental development when the stones start to develop.  Is a race preprogrammed to fly starships sapient, really?

Would explain a lot about selected fantasy and SF races, to be sure.  0:)
Tags: world-building: creatures, world-building: metaphysics, world-building: non-human characters
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