Newborns Can Bond to a “Mother” from a Different Species

Rachel Dvoskin in Scientific American:

Tiger_pigIf you saw Winged Migration or Fly Away Home, which delivered the first true bird’s-eye views of the world, you may have wondered how they got those wild geese to wear tiny camcorders on their heads. In fact, the cameras were in ultralight aircraft, which the birds accompanied—by choice. The crafty filmmakers took advantage of one of Mother Nature’s tricks called imprinting: If you had grown up thinking your mom was inside that noisy plane—or was that noisy plane—you’d have gladly tolerated it, too.

In the mid 1930s German ethologist Konrad Lorenz popularized filial imprinting, the process by which a newborn animal learns to recognize the unique characteristics of its parent, typically its mother. This phenomenon was termed imprinting (translated from the German word prägung) by Lorenz’s mentor, Oskar Heinroth, who believed that the sensory stimulus encountered by the hatchling was immediately, and irreversibly, “stamped” onto the animal’s brain. Lorenz demonstrated this with his famous goslings, which had spent their first hours of life with him and subsequently followed him everywhere; as adults they preferred the company of humans over fellow avians.

More here.  [Thanks to Scott Rosenblum.]