Illustration showing how seagull chicks know when predators are lurking
Illustration showing how seagull chicks know when predators are lurking

Infographic: Animal Embryos Coopt Sound to Survive and Thrive

Across the tree of life, animals use sound and other vibrations to glean valuable sensory information about their environments even before they are born.

amanda heidt
Amanda Heidt

Midway through her master’s degree in marine science, Amanda realized how few scientists felt comfortable speaking about their work. She challenged herself to share her research and ultimately went on...

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Nov 1, 2021

ABOVE: © LAURIE O’KEEFE

Although scientists have long described embryos—whether ensconced in an egg or a womb—as passive agents, new research shows that they are in fact capable of sensing conditions in their external environments. By eavesdropping on the sounds of family members or sensing the quakes of an approaching predator, for example, developing young can alter their development or modify their behavior–a phenomenon known as acoustic developmental programming. In some cases, these prebirth adaptations affect lifelong fitness.

Seagull Chicks Know When Predators Are Lurking

© LAURIE O’KEEFE

Zebra Finches Warn Their Chicks When It’s Hot

© LAURIE O’KEEFE

Glass Frogs Can Tell Pop from Predator

© LAURIE O’KEEFE

Vibrations Help Reduce Cannibalism in Burrower Bugs

© LAURIE O’KEEFE

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