Recognition from the Womb

We humans are NOT the only species that can recognize voices and individuals from the womb!

Researchers have discovered that tiny, tiny songbirds called Fairy Wrens learn while developing in the egg before they are hatched. Not only that, they also recognize specific voices, messages, and individual birds from the womb of the egg before they hatch.  This research represents the FIRST scientific proof that other species, other than humans, recognize individuals from the womb.

Until recently, even humans had believed that the roots of human behavior started after we were born. But, over the past few decades, neuroscience has discovered that we not only have a “whole life” within the womb, but our experiences in-utero become the root of our behavior patterns for after we are born.

And now, science is discovering that a little creature as tiny as the fairy wren embryo can distinguish between calls of its mother and other birds from the shell-womb. Scientists are also discovering that these little embryos also learn a certain sound, or a sort of “password,” from their mother, which they use for begging for food after being hatched.

In fact, this little ‘mom call,’ which is unique for every fairy wren mother bird, is used by the mother as a sign that this is her young. This is important because sometimes other birds, specifically the Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo hen, lay eggs in their nests. The Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo baby intruders do not learn the specific note before they hatch, and as a result, the mother fairy wren does not feed them after they are hatched.

To learn more about how the scientists conducted the research by monitoring the heart rate of the wren embryos, click here.

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