How does parental care relate to juveniles’ capabilities? (in biology!)

When most people think about parental care, they think about human parents! Human parents (and parental figures) tend to care for their children a lot–and for a long time!

That high level of parental care is an adaptation! Humans have adapted to provide a level of parental care that is uncommon among other animals.

For instance, many marine invertebrates and fishes have practically no parental care! Larvae are released out into the ocean–or initially grow in the ocean–and they are on their own!

Young lobster attempting to surf on a jelly (Pelagia flaveola) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

These youngsters have to be able to survive a lot on their own! The capability to be out on their own so early in their lives is also an adaptation. Think about it–a newborn human is not going to be able to survive on their own without anyone taking care of them! We need people to help us through our childhoods until we become self-sufficient!

In that way, the adapted capabilities of young organisms are very closely linked to the parental care parents are adapted to provide. The level of parental care given has to match youngsters’ capability to survive!

If parental care did not match how prepared youngsters were, you would end up with one of two scenarios:

  • Parents who are providing too much parental care–that stifles the juveniles! They’re ready to go out into the world, but their parents are holding them back!
  • Parents who are providing too little parental care–that leads to unprepared juveniles! They are not ready to go out into the world!

Both of these options are not ideal–so, a species’ adaptations will eventually reach a balance where parental care matches juveniles’ preparation for the real world!

What are your thoughts on parental care? Do you have any questions? Let me know!

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