Animal parenting strategies depend on many different factors, such as lifespan and predation risks. All animals make different choices with the ultimate goal being reproductive success.
The other day I saw a pregnant woman walking around with her young kids and that got me thinking about reproduction. I find it so cool how different animals have such different approaches when it comes to reproduction and their parenting strategy. Humans and some other mammals spend years of our lives to raise one or a few babies. But, other animals take very different approaches, such as the sea turtle that lays its eggs in a hole and then leaves them alone to fend for themselves when they are born. Why do you think animals have such different strategies for parenting?
The Two Extremes Of Animal Parenting Strategies
The two ends of the animal parenting spectrum are the lay it and leave it approach (most insects and reptiles do this) or taking care of the offspring for years (such as humans, chimps, and elephants). These are two very different strategies, but they both share the same common goal of survival. All animals want to pass on their genes and see the survival of their species. Do you remember a little something called survival of the fittest?
Lay It And Leave It Approach
The lay it and leave it approach is simply an animal that lays its eggs and then leaves them. When those babies hatch from their eggs they are completely on their own to survive and make their way in the world.
This strategy does not involve much of an investment in time, but it does mean that most of the eggs or babies will not survive to become adults. It is as if this strategy relies on creating a huge number of eggs and offspring in the hope that some of them will survive to reproduce.
Taking Care Of Offspring For Years
The other end of the parenting strategy is for an animal to spend years raising and caring for their babies. Many mammals, including humans, have a baby and then spend years raising and taking care of them.
This requires a huge investment in time. This strategy focuses on raising one or a few babies to become adults so that they may reproduce.
Factors That Influence Animal Parenting Strategies
There are scientists that study populations and animals. These scientists have come up with a number of factors that may influence an animals parenting strategy. Here are the main five factors.
Environmental stability – What is the environment into which the babies are being born? Is it very safe or very dangerous?
Lifespan – How long on average does the animal live? It seems that animals with a longer lifespan put a greater investment into raising their young.
Predation risks – What is the likelihood that the babies or young will be eaten or killed by predators? Many animals realize their is a high chance the babies will be killed, so they have lots of babies with the hope that some will survive.
Clutch size – How many babies does an animal have at a time?
Frequency of reproduction – How often or frequently can an animal reproduce?