Amazing Nature

Survival wisdom of baby animals

Apr 2023
Author: Green Power
Flat and transparent body of a eel in its leptocephalus (larval) stage
The eel in its leptocephalus (larval) stage is flat and transparent, to avoid being spotted by its predators during its migratory journey from the sea towards a river.
© Kils @ Wikipedia

“Newborn calves are not afraid of tigers,” as the Chinese proverb says. In reality, infant and juvenile wild animals are fragile, with their physical and sensory skills yet to be developed. They are often the first targets of predators. However, baby animal have their own survival wisdom. Let’s check them out.

Cryptic colouration

Eels are migratory fish. Adults travel from rivers to the sea for egg laying during the breeding season. Newly hatched eel babies have to migrate back to the river for survival. During the leptocephalus (larval) stage, a baby eel has a flat and almost transparent body, drifting along the ocean current. It is transparent, as its skin pigment has not been developed, thus avoiding being spotted by predators. Upon arriving near coastal waters, the body becomes streamlined to help the eel continue to complete its migratory route.

Hostile appearance

Animal babies may not have the ability to fight back against natural enemies, whereas some may have mimicry skills to scare predators away. Adult Cinereous Mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra), a bird that’s a resident of South American rainforest, does not have an impressive appearance. It is, however, covered in sharp orange feathers scattered with black spots during the juvenile stage. The young bird will also consciously cover its head with the erected feathers, and slowly sway its body, greatly resembling a toxic moth caterpillar, and easily scare away potential predators.

The young Cinereous Mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) looks like a toxic moth caterpillar, as a survival trick.
©Dano Grayson


It is not only humans who employ bodyguards, insects do too. Scientists discovered the mutualistic relationship between caterpillars of many Lycaenidae butterflies and ants - the former secrete sweet honeydew for the ant bodyguards as a reward. The ants, after gathering the honeydew, will chase away any potential predators of the butterfly caterpillars, to safeguard them.

Many Lycaenidae butterfly caterpillars and ants maintain a mutualistic relationship - the caterpillar secrets honeydew for the ants as a reward for being its bodyguards.
© EntomologicalSociety of America

Full time parenting

As with humans, primate babies require a long period of care by their parents. Most primate babies have the instinct of holding tight to their mothers, from the day they are born. This way, they can be fully protected round the clock!

The rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) baby holding tight to the mother
Holding tight to the mother for full protection is an instinct of many primate babies.