Lessons from adolescent animals on staying safe

lessons from adolescent animals on staying safe

The behaviour of birds, reptiles and fish has much to teach us about the perilous leap into adulthood for our own offspring

For more than a decade we’ve been immersed in the chaos, exasperation and delight of adolescence. Professionally, we were researching how wild animals across the globe make the perilous leap from childhood to adulthood. Meanwhile at home, we were each raising animal adolescents of the Homo sapiens variety. We’re often asked how studying the behaviour of adolescent animals shaped our own experiences as parents and the short answer is, profoundly.

We discovered that adolescence is a dangerous phase of life across the animal kingdom. And while there are many differences between species, the time-limited purpose of adolescence is universal. We observed that there are four main skills that define the development of adolescence to adulthood: staying safe from predators and exploiters; navigating social hierarchies; learning to communicate and understand sexual signals; and learning how to leave the nest (or den or warren or house) without starving to death.

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