How do some animals recognise their offspring?

It is said that only man has highly developed reasoning faculties and hence, can think, act and talk. Animals, too, have their own superior senses that excel in certain activities. For example, dogs have deep sense of smell and hearing that man does not have. Similarly, like human beings, animals also have offsprings and they too take care of them. But how do these animals recognise their young ones? For most animals where parental care is essential, it is important for the mother and her young ones to recognise each other, so that they do not lose contact. This is done through one or more of the five senses — smell, sound, sight, touch and taste. Most mammals recognise their offsprings by smell. This is also observed among dogs, deer, sheep, horses and seals. It is interesting to note that in a flock of sheep, every mother can recognise her own young one by smell, and ignore others. When a young one is born, its mother sniffs the newborn baby and the smell is immediately registered in its memory for life. Thereafter, the mother locates her baby by sniffing all the babies around until she finds her own lamb. Birds recognise their young ones by sound. Each parent bird has her own special ‘mother call’ which the baby immediately recognises on hatching, and the mother can also recognise the baby’s cry. An Austrian naturalist, Dr. Konard Lorenz, made a special study on geese. He conducted his study just before some geese eggs were about to hatch. He removed the mother goose and sat by the eggs himself. As the babies hatched, he gave the ‘mother call’. As a result, they followed him everywhere believing him to be their mother, as they recognised only that sound, but since he was too big for the young geese, they got confused when he stood up. However, they were quite happy to follow him when he crawled about on his hands and knees.

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