Grow­ing close

The bond be­tween a mother and her ba­bies is a unique one, and it’s helped along by scent

World of Animals - - Super Sniffers -

Scent is vi­tal for an­i­mals born with closed eyes or poor eye­sight, as it al­lows them to iden­tify and find their mothers. A new­born mouse learns the unique smell of its mother from the scent of the am­ni­otic fluid at birth. Af­ter this, the smell helps the baby find its way to its mother’s side and en­cour­ages suck­ling.

Rab­bits don’t have to put in the ef­fort to learn what their mums smell like; fe­males emit a pheromone that trig­gers an in­nate latch­ing and suck­ling re­sponse in their kit­tens.

In species where all ba­bies look vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal at birth, mothers ben­e­fit from the unique­ness of scent too, us­ing chem­i­cal sig­nals to iden­tify their off­spring so they don’t waste time or en­ergy car­ing for an­other fe­male’s young. In many mam­mals, in­clud­ing hu­mans, cer­tain hor­mones that pro­mote bond­ing are re­leased in a mother’s brain when she catches a whiff of her ba­bies.

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