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What do chimpz/bonobos/orangutangs/gorillas feed their babies with?

What do chimpz/bonobos/orangutangs/gorillas feed their babies with?


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I just read this question and it made me curious about what a more original baby diet would look like. So, at what age do our closest relatives in the animal kingdom start giving their offspring more solid food, in addition to milk, and how do they prepare it?


Wolves regurgitate berries for their pups to eat

Fruit seems to make up an important part of the wolves’ diet — much more important than previously thought.

Wolves (Canis lupus) can eat a lot of things. They are, of course, hunters — but their chances of catching prey are much higher when they’re a group. They’re also scavengers, not being particularly picky about food. They also complement their diet with fruits and berries. For centuries, scientists have made notes of this, and many farmers can attest that wolves will sometimes come to their fields.

This was thought to be only a complement in their diet — a way to compensate for poor hunting, accounting for a small amount of their caloric intake. That may not be the case.

In 2017, biologist Austin Homkes of Northern Michigan University in Marquette noticed some unusual behavior. He was following the GPS signal from previously installed wolf collars. It seemed like a gathering where several wolves met up — indicative of a hunt, he thought.

It’s common for wolves to hunt something and then bring the pups to the carcass to feed. But this wasn’t the case. It was, indeed, a rendezvous site. Homkes watched from a distance, observing as pups gathered around an adult wolf. They started licking its mouth, which stimulates adults to throw up. Then, Homkes thought, it must be still some meat the adult wolf had previously consumed.

But this wasn’t the case here. Homkes watched in shock as the wolf regurgitated piles of partially chewed blueberries, which the pups munched on.

Two different piles of blueberries regurgitated by an adult wolf to provision wolf pups. Image credits: Homkes et al (2020) / Wildlife Science Bulletin.

Premastication (the act of pre-chewing food for the purpose of feeding it to babies) is not uncommon. Humans still do it sometimes, though we don’t consume and regurgitate the food. Several species of animals are known to do it as well, either with or without the regurgitation — that’s not the surprise. The surprise is that the wolves would go to such lengths to provide berries to their pups, even when hunting is not unsuccessful.

“It’s a pretty big part of wolf ecology that was right under our noses that we didn’t see,” Homkes says.

This also raises some interesting questions: how much nutritional value do berries carry for wolves, which are thought to be primarily carnivorous? Homkes is also curious to know what happens when blueberries are not available to a pack that relies on them.

But this is not just a biological curiosity, it could be important in conservation.

“Given the dearth of information on the role of berries in wolf ecology, we think considerable research is needed to understand the importance of wild berries to wolves. Such research could, for example, illuminate how forestry practices that dramatically increase berry abundance might affect wolf pup survival,” the study reads.


What do chimpz/bonobos/orangutangs/gorillas feed their babies with? - Biology


Swans hatching from their eggs is the glorious end to the long drawn out vigil that the female swan has endured for over a month. Severely weakened and in need of food, the pen (and cob) will spend just a couple of days at the nest with her hatchlings, before their great life adventure starts.

This section will deal with how the parents care for their young between their emergence from the egg, until when the newly hatched baby swans go for their first swim.

After their epic struggle to break free from the egg, the cygnets are still covered in a waxy layer that surrounded it whilst in the egg, shielding it from various liquids that were contained inside. This waxy coating gives them their wet look that they have when they&rsquove just hatched, but it soon disappears over the next few hours as it dries and some of it rubs off, when they push themselves against their mother and over the nest material.

Once dry, the baby swan takes on that light grey, fluffy appearance that makes cygnets look so appealing to onlookers.

The weight of the cygnet at the time of hatchling is about 64% of the weight of the egg when it was first laid (the missing 36% is accounted for in the weight of the egg shell, membranes, liquids/moisture and losses due to metabolism) and 2.5% of its final weight, when it&rsquos an adult.

The cygnets are extremely vulnerable at this stage they have very little fear of anything, so their parents will now be at their most protective, even aggressive, to any intrusion. The reason for the cob and pen becoming particularly sensitive to any outside influence at this time is because their young are about to programme themselves, or &lsquoset&rsquo themselves, to another object that they will instinctively follow for the next six months, or so. They will rely on their parents to lead them to food, provide shelter and set an example for them to follow.

This is known as imprinting. What basically happens is that the first large moving object that the cygnet sees, it will &lsquolock on&rsquo to (in other words, imprint on) and follow it religiously, until its time has come to fly off and make a new, independent life of its own.

But it&rsquos not just vision that swans use to imprint &ndash they also use sound. Even from quite early on in the incubation period, the developing embryo will be able to hear sounds inside the egg from the outside world. It is believed that the pen and cob make a number of sounds during the nesting period that they use to start the imprinting process of their offspring.

After the cygnet is born, the mother and father make a number of sounds the baby swans use to programme themselves to audibly recognise their parents. (Each swan produces its own unique sound, rather like humans have their own unique voice. The pen has a slightly higher pitched sound than the cob.)

The swan&rsquos hatchling is what we call a precocial hatchling. Which means it&rsquos fully able to see and walk as well as being able to feed and clean itself. It will have down (a fluffy furry like substance) and will need nowhere near the amount of care from its parents that a chick from a kingfisher or a blue tit would need. However, a baby swan will be very functional right from the word go, even though it will still need a lot of care and guidance from pen and cob. This is why it imprints on them because it needs a guiding light for the first days of its life.

Swans have been known to imprint on chickens, ducks or even humans, so that&rsquos why mum and dad are especially careful that the first things its baby sees and hears are its parents. Good parental instinct guides them in this way because imprinting on mum and dad will ensure the cygnets are given everything they needs to grow up into adult swans.

To facilitate the imprinting process and to familiarise themselves with their offspring, they will often put their heads up very close to the baby&rsquos head and make soft calls to them.

This also tells us why the pen and cob are so keen to rid their territory of any other large, &lsquoimprintable&rsquo, object. If there were any other imprintable objects around, there is a distinct danger that their offspring could learn to follow something else and not the parents, which will mean the baby&rsquos needs are unlikely to be met and it will die.

As the cygnet imprints on mum and dad, it starts to learn fear of many other objects (such as humans and other swans), which will assist its survival instincts.

After a day or two, the thorn like egg-tooth will fall off - it&rsquos served its purpose and is no longer needed.

The first day of life will be spent on the nest with both parents along with any other hatchlings. Offspring will first dry themselves out and imprint on their parents. They will sleep a lot of the time under the pen and occasionally stagger around the mother&rsquos perimeter, exploring their new exciting world.

The hatchling will do very little feeding at this stage, it will have absorbed the remains of the egg yolk from inside the egg during the hatching process. This provides it with a significant proportion of it sustenance over the first week to ten days. Nonetheless during their first day, cygnets will still be grabbing a hold of various objects in their mouths to explore what&rsquos edible and what&rsquos not.

During its first day, the cygnet will favour staying under the mother&rsquos abdomen or inside her slightly outstretched wings.

As previously mentioned in the section, Swans Incubating Eggs, cygnets start to make sounds from about forty eight hours before the hatching time. But it&rsquos after hatching that their callings start to become true vocalisations.

These sounds the cygnet makes form a very important part in the communication between itself, other cygnets and its parents.

Around the nest site a quiet cacophony of cygnet sounds can be heard, along with various less frequent calls from the parents. Both parties are continuing to familiarise themselves with each other&rsquos calls. At this stage, the cygnets mainly produce soft, quiet sounds which indicate alertness and &lsquocontentfulness&rsquo.

It&rsquos unusual for Mute Swan cygnets to enter the water in the first day they will spend their entire first twenty four hours very close to their mother, whilst she continues to incubate any unhatched eggs, as well as brooding her babies. The cob is normally positioned just beside her &ndash affording her protection and familiarising himself with his new family. Occasionally he will take a trip round the territory close to the nest, just to check that there are no unwanted &lsquoguests&rsquo around.

Even on the first day, the cygnets will be seen preening themselves. Although, their initial coat of down will be partially waterproof (they&rsquore born with downy fluff, rather than recognisable feathers), it needs a lot of care and attention to keep it in good condition. Swans have a preen gland on top of their tail - the oil from this gland will need to spread over the entire bird in order to keep the fluffy coat waterproof.

For their first night, the pen will ensure the babies are tucked under her abdomen or under her slightly outstretched wings, for protection and warmth. The cob will generally sleep right beside her, too.

Commonly at this stage, all the eggs that are going to hatch, will have hatched &ndash so now the time has come for the cygnets to be given their first lessons in how to live as a Mute Swan.

The first thing that is noticeable on the second day, is that there is a lot more noise and activity around the nest site. The cygnets are no longer recovering from the hatching process, but will be exploring more adventurously.

One of the first things they will do is to continue to peck at all manner of objects for edibility and eat one or two items, bits of grass and such like. They will spend less time tucked under mum, they will start to clamber all over her, particularly looking to get on top and exploring her back, neck, etc.

This need for the cygnets to climb is a very positive instinct because when out on the water, they will need to periodically climb onto their parents for protection and warmth, particularly as they tire quickly.

It&rsquos on their second day that the family will take their first all important swim. This frequently occurs any time from late morning to early in the afternoon. One or other of the parents will get into the water first and then beckon their babies to follow them. They call them by making a number of high pitched sounds and raising their heads inviting the cygnets to join them.

It&rsquos not usual for the young ones to be a little reluctant at first, often getting to the water&rsquos edge and then backing away. But persistent calls from both parents and staring from the pen and cob will eventually entice them into the water.

On making contact with the water, the cygnets will let out a loud cacophony of short trill sounds as if to say how excited they are, or maybe, expressing how cold the water feels on their little webbed feet!

They will often be seen rushing around in a haphazard manner, struggling to maintain upright as they wobble round finding their balance.

Mum and dad will lead them on a swim of maybe twenty minutes or so, during which the babies will generally stay as a group, with mum leading and dad keeping an eye on things at the back. The cygnets will be busy exploring their new world &ndash pecking and eating all manner of floating plants, pulling at plant stems draping over the water surface, eating small insects and all the while, they will be giving out a continuous stream of sounds communicating to the parents.

Swans at this very early stage of their life will frequently stop what they&rsquore doing, raise their head and stare at their parents. This behaviour lasts for many weeks, albeit with decreasing frequency as their development progresses, and probably forms part of the process of making and maintaining the bond between them and their parents.

Getting towards the end of the swim, the cygnets will start to tire. This is probably due not only to the length of the swim, but also, that their little bodies will have to work faster to maintain their high body temperature (swans are warm blooded, see section Biology of Swans).

When this happens the babies will want to get out of the water, either by going ashore, or, by climbing onto the back of mum or dad. This is the reason for that instinctive climbing that the cygnets get up to on mum, as discussed earlier on. The young will need to climb onto either one of their parents and take a ride.

When the family goes ashore, the cygnets often struggle to get out of the water. The primary reasons for this are because the little swans are simply physically tired, but also because the bank can be quite steep and, even though they have little nails on their webbed feet, they find it difficult to get a purchase on the ground.

The parents do not actually push or pull them out of the water, but they call to them in a high pitched voice. If the babies are experiencing prolonged difficulties in getting onto the bank, the intensity of their calling increases along with mum and dad beckoning, in unison, often from very short range.

I&rsquove seen cygnets experience major problems with clambering out onto the bank, going on for over half an hour, the baby tries relentlessly to climb out - it tugs at the heart strings to see such helpless babies struggling to get out of the water. The parents are right there, almost standing on top of them, calling encouragingly, but there&rsquos nothing they can do. Normally the struggling cygnets make it. (Part of the selection process that the swans use in determining the nest site is to ensure the banks are suitable for their babies being able to get into and out of the water &ndashsee section on Swan Nesting, but they don&rsquot always get it right.)

When the young finally make it to shore, the first thing they do is to preen and then take a well earned nap. If the actual nest is a couple of metres from the water&rsquos edge, the whole family will sleep for a short while before making their way to the nest.

When on the nest, there will be a lot preening going on from the whole family. Cygnets will be clambering around all over the nest, each other and the pen. The cob will normally sit just to one side guarding the whole nest site and protecting his family from any unwelcome attention.

If at the time of the first swim, there are still unhatched eggs, the pen will sometimes continue incubating, whilst the cob takes the hatchlings out for their first adventure. What normally happens though, is that all the eggs that are going to hatch would have hatched by now and the mother will leave the whole eggs unattended, which will probably end up being abandoned when the family leave the nest permanently on the third day.

There will usually be a second, or even a third, swim before the end of the day. Each successive swim gets a little longer in duration and after each one, the family will preen, sleep and play around with each other.

Commonly, after the second night, the whole family will leave the nest site for the last time&hellip their semi nomadic lifestyle has now started.


The female does not lay her eggs all at once she will lay up to a dozen dull green or white eggs over a period of days. She does not begin incubating the eggs until she lays the last egg. During the days that she lays her eggs, she will leave the nest and join the drake to forage for food. During incubation, when she leaves the nest to eat, she hides the eggs with vegetation or down from the nest.

The eggs take between 28 to 30 days to incubate and all of them usually hatch within one to two days. The chicks emerge from the shell covered in fine brown down. The hen brings her chicks to water within a day of hatching to teach them to swim. During the journey to water, she will stop frequently to gather the slower chicks to her and may gather them under her to warm. Within eight to 10 days, the chicks are ready to survive on their own and the female abandons them.


The Nate Max Project

n 2010, the pro-life organization wrote to the CEO of Senomyx, Jewish Zionist Kent Snyder, indicating the many ethical and moral choices that can and should be used to test their food additives.

Senomyx’s website says that “the key programs of flavor company focusing on the discovery and development of savory ingredients, candy and other additives intended to reduce the MSG, sugar and salt in food and beverage products (…) “, proclaiming that” (…) using the isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary test systems based on taste receptors that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor. ”

Senomyx says its partners will provide funding for research and development, plus on sales of products using their flavor ingredients.

“What is hidden from the public who are using HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce these receptors,” said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, a pro-life organization and ethics which monitors the use and amount of aborted fetal material in medical and cosmetic products (per year).

“They could use monkey cells (CON) cells, Chinese hamster ovary cells, insect cells or other human taste receptor, morally obtained, expressing the G protein,” said Vinnedge.

After several requests for information Nestlé finally admitted his relationship with Senomyx, indicating that the cell line was “well established in the scientific research”.

After listening to Ms. Vinnedge in April 2012, exposing the reality of the problem, many consumers-angry citizens began to express their condemnation of such immorality through letters to companies. Campbell Soup and PepsiCo responded immediately.

Pepsi was one of the companies with Monsanto contributed money in the campaign against GM labeling.

Surprisingly, Pepsico wrote: “We expect to feel safe knowing that our collaboration with Senomyx is strictly limited to the creation of drinks with lower calorie and great taste for consumers. This cooperation will help us achieve our commitment to reduce sugar by 25% in key brands and the main markets of the next decade, eventually, we help people live healthier lives. “Read the article: – Coca Cola and Pepsi cause cancer –

The Campbell Soup corporation was a little concerned about the answer: “Every effort will be made to use the best ingredients and develop the largest selection of products, providing a great value. With this in mind, I must say that it is not worth compromising the trust we have grown and developed over the years with our customers to reduce costs or increase profit margins. ”

Although Campbell said not change their methods, Vinnedge felt hope.

“If enough people express their outrage and their intention to boycott these consumer products, Senomyx it could be forced to change their methods,” he said.

Click here to read the original letters of response Pepsico, Nestle and Campbell Soup (Letter 1, 2, 3)

Need evidence on the use of fetal cell lines from aborted babies Senomyx?

This is the link online for your patent in the sweet receptors (several separate patents were filed for every taste receptor). As is long and technical, we recommend doing a search on the document for HEK-293.

HEK (human embryonic kidney cells 293), also known as HEK 293, 293, or less precisely as HEK cells. They are a specific cell line originally obtained from human embryonic kidney cells, and cultured in a laboratory (tissue culture). HEK 293 cells are very easy to grow and easy to transfect, which were widely used in cell biology research for many years. They are also used by the biotech industry to produce therapeutic proteins and viruses for gene therapy.

A list of products containing HEK cells.

  • All soft drinks and Pepsi
  • All drinks Sierra Mist
  • All drinks Mountain Dew
  • All the en Beer Mug Root Beer (Pepsi)
  • Drinks No Fear
  • Drinks Ocean Spray
  • Seattle’s Best Coffee
  • All drinks Tazo
  • All brands of “Energy Drink”
  • Aquafina Water
  • Aquafina Water saborizas
  • DoubleShot
  • Frappuccino
  • Lipton tea and other beverages
  • Propel
  • SoBe
  • Gatorade
  • Party Miranda
  • Tropicana
  • Including coffee creamers, instant soups Maggi bouillon cubes, ketchup, sauces, instant noodles soup.

Kraft – Cadbury Adams LLC Products:

  • Black Jack
  • Bubbaloo
  • Bubblicious
  • Chiclets
  • Clorets
  • Dentyne
  • Freshen Up Gum
  • Sour Cherry Gum
  • Sour Apple Gum
  • Stride
  • Trident

Cadbury Adams LLC Candies

  • Sour Cherry Blasters
  • Fruit Mania
  • Bassett’s Liquorice
  • Maynards Wine Gum
  • Swedish Fish
  • Swedish Berries
  • Juicy Squirts
  • Original Gummies
  • Fuzzy Peach
  • Sour Chillers
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Mini Fruit Gums

This company produces anti-wrinkle creams containing cells of aborted babies of 14 weeks gestation. Here is a list of creams, although a boycott is recommended for all products Neocutis.


Temporal development of the infant gut microbiome

The majority of organisms that inhabit the human body reside in the gut. Since babies are born with an immature immune system, they depend on a highly synchronized microbial colonization process to ensure the correct microbes are present for optimal immune function and development. In a balanced microbiome, symbiotic and commensal species outcompete pathogens for resources. They also provide a protective barrier against chemical signals and toxic metabolites. In this targeted review we will describe factors that influence the temporal development of the infant microbiome, including the mode of delivery and gestational age at birth, maternal and infant perinatal antibiotic infusions, and feeding method—breastfeeding versus formula feeding. We will close by discussing wider environmental pressures and early intimate contact, particularly between mother and child, as they play a pivotal role in early microbial acquisition and community succession in the infant.

1. Introduction

The relationship between a human being and their microbiome is a mutualistic symbiosis wherein the human host provides nutrition and protection for the microbial community [1]. In turn, the microbial population assists with essential functions such as aiding in immune system development and providing defence against enteric infection [2]. Dysbiosis, or microbial imbalance, is linked to a number of diseases in infants such as asthma, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), necrotizing enterocolitis and type 1 diabetes (T1D) [3–7]. While the resident microbes of the host flora are reasonably well characterized, the mechanisms and timing of inoculation are largely understudied. For the purposes of this review, we divide the development of the microbiome into three stages (figure 1).

Figure 1. Stages and associated factors that modulate the microbiome early in life.

In utero (or the prenatal stage) is the least understood period of microbial development [8]. The thought that the womb is sterile and, accordingly, that a neonate's microbiome is first seeded at birth is the accepted dogma. However, studies consistently emerge that suggest microbial communities exist in the placenta, amniotic fluid and meconium [9]. Accordingly, intrauterine seeding is an intriguing possibility. For example, it is believed that the placenta harbours a wide range of microbes, many of which originate in the mouth [10]. Thus, if children are exposed to a placental flora in utero, one can readily understand why maternal prenatal oral health is so important.

The next stage of flora development is parturition (or labour and delivery). Due to pop culture, the most famous part of this process is amniorrhexis (i.e. rupture of membranes or water breaking). Upon rupture of the amniotic sac, sterility is lost. As the baby descends through the birth canal, they experience their first wave of microbial inoculation via the vaginal flora [11]. These microbes deoxygenate the gut and set the stage for correct growth and development. As we characterize below, the mode of delivery drastically affects microbial colonization. Babies delivered via Caesarean section (CS) experience altered, less beneficial microbial inoculation [12]. This change in delivery mode may ultimately explain why CS is associated with a number of long-term health challenges.

After parturition, the baby's microbial community experiences rapid changes. During infancy and the postnatal stage, skin-to-skin contact transfers valuable skin microbes to the baby [13]. A number of these organisms possess antimicrobial properties that defend against pathogens. While human skin is a valuable inoculator of the newborn, the most powerful and overwhelming source of microbes arrives via breast milk [14,15]. Due to its health benefits, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding through the first six months of life. In addition to helping a child achieve optimal growth and development, a primary consequence of consistent and exclusive breastfeeding is the proliferation of symbiotic and commensal gut microbes. Complex milk oligosaccharides, which are unique to primate milk, function as prebiotics (to provide a selective growth advantage for symbiotes over pathogens) [16–18], anti-adhesive antimicrobial agents (which selectively bind pathogens) [19], and antimicrobial and antibiofilm compounds (which are bacteriostatic against select pathogens) [20–25].

As solid foods are introduced into the diet, the microbiome begins the process of evolving from a simple environment that is Bifidobacteria-rich (microbes that metabolize human milk oligosaccharides) to a diverse flora rich in species such as Bacteroides that metabolize the starches present in a more complex diet. While the introduction of solid foods initiates microbial community changes, it is the gradual termination of breastfeeding that has the most profound effect. Thus, as weaning is initiated, a toddler's gut begins a maturation process leading to a diverse adult flora.

It is clear that stable microbial communities are established via dynamic changes during infancy. This review aims to characterize those changes at the molecular and microbial levels, to provide insight into the early development of the microbiome.

2. Prenatal development of the infant microbiome

The process of microbial colonization during early life is significant, as this time frame is critical to correct immunological and physiological development. Given the importance of commensal and symbiotic microbial communities to their host's development, a number of mechanisms have evolved to facilitate their structured transmission. Microbial inoculation is well established in a number of host–microbial symbioses, where it ranges from vertical transmission from the mother to horizontal transmission from all other sources [26]. In contrast to these well-defined models of symbiosis, the mechanisms that drive the seeding of the more complex floras in and on the human body are poorly understood. Given the importance of the microbiota for proper human health and development, it is essential that we precisely characterize the source of microbes, the timing of colonization, and the endogenous and exogenous factors that govern these processes.

The current dogma is that the fetus develops in a sterile environment [9]. According to the sterile womb paradigm, microbes are acquired both vertically (from the mother) and horizontally (from the community) during and after birth. However, the degree of uterine sterility and the possibility of an in utero microbial community is highly contested. According to the in utero colonization hypothesis, microbial colonization of the human gut begins before birth. However, there are no rigorously conducted studies to support this hypothesis and challenge the sterile womb paradigm. Recent findings that suggests in utero colonization rely heavily on PCR and next-generation sequencing [27,28]. While compelling, each of these techniques lacks the detection limit required to study bacterial populations present in low quantities. Accordingly, based on the available data, a human being's first microbial inoculation occurs during labour and delivery. Many of these microbes have been characterized and quantified postpartum, vide infra. The earliest colonizers are adventitious species from the vaginal flora that typically gain penetrance to the digestive system through the baby's mouth. The nature of the microbes present is correlated to the health of the mother. Thus, conditions encountered during pregnancy or labour and delivery will influence the microbes that first colonize a child.

2.1. Maternal or neonatal antibiotic infusions

Over the last century, antibiotics have proven to be highly successful in treating bacterial infections. However, they are also well-known contributors to microbiome dysbiosis. Surprisingly, even though antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications to children, there are few studies detailing their long-term effects on the developing flora. This is neglectful when one considers that several countries, including the United States, mandate that children receive antibiotic prophylaxis immediately after birth. Moreover, in Western countries, approximately 50% of women are exposed to an antibiotic during labour and delivery. For example, antibiotic use during pregnancy is standard during CS or assisted vaginal delivery. Before the procedure, the mother is given an intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis (IAP) to help reduce the risk of CS related infections such as endometritis, urinary tract infections and surgical site infections [29]. While antibiotics can be delivered after the umbilical cord is clamped to reduce transmission to the newborn, the WHO recommends preoperative administration to lower the risk of post-CS maternal infections [30].

Mothers who plan on vaginal delivery do not require antibiotic administration, with the exception of those who test positive for group B streptococcus (GBS) [31]. GBS is a Gram-positive bacterium present in the GI tracts and genital tracts of 20–30% of pregnant women at the time of delivery [32]. Fifty per cent of all pregnant women will carry GBS at some point over the course of their pregnancy. While healthy pregnant women are typically asymptomatic, GBS infections in fetuses or infants are detrimental [33]. GBS is associated with preterm birth and infant mortality, and is a major cause of sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis and bacteraemia [33,34]. Additionally, there is a correlation between the timeline of antibiotic administration prior to vaginal delivery and the infant's microbiome make-up, with a decrease in Bifidobacterium and an increase in Clostridium [35].

The microbiome of CS-delivered infants is consistent with infants whose mothers were treated with IAP. The overall diversity of the neonatal gut is much lower. Typically, there are decreased levels of Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, while there are increased levels of Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Enterococcus spp. [35–37]. IAP administration has been linked to an elevated risk for the development of a number of diseases and conditions in the child including asthma, allergies and obesity. However, these studies are not all conclusive on whether they can be connected entirely to maternal antibiotic use [31,35].

While longitudinal studies are not available, what is known is that intrapartum antibiotic use is associated with decreased bacterial diversity in the neonate's first stool and a presumed lower abundance of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the gut. Similar associations have been observed after administration of antibiotics to the neonate directly after birth. Studies are unavailable that characterize the effect of prenatal antibiotics on the neonate's microbiome. Additionally, more data are needed that examine the potential effects of perinatal antibiotic use on an infant's short- and long-term health.

3. Development of the infant microbiome during parturition

Caesarean section delivery is a necessary surgical procedure when natural, vaginal delivery puts either the mother or baby at risk due to complications during the pregnancy or labour. The WHO recommends the rate of CS to be between 10% and 15% however, the rate of caesarean deliveries is on the rise, especially in developed countries [38,39]. Despite the potential risks involved for both mother and child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 32% of all deliveries in the United States are by CS [38,40]. There are several factors involved with making the decision to perform a CS with additional consideration made for elective CS. High-risk pregnancy conditions leading to CS include higher maternal age, obesity, pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, blood disorders and high blood pressure, and other factors such as multiple gestation, birth defects or pre-eclampsia [41,42]. Planned vaginal deliveries can lead to delivery by CS due to complications that arise during labour, necessitating emergency CS. The most common reasons for performing emergency CS are cephalo-pelvic disproportion (CPD), failed induction, macrosomia and non-reassuring fetal heart rate (NFHR) [43].

Aside from the numerous complications that can arise from CS, mode of delivery is one of the foremost contributors to disruption of the infant's microbiome other contributors are maternal antibiotic use and formula feeding [35]. The development of the neonate's microbiota for those babies born vaginally is quite different from that of those babies born by CS. The infant is exposed to an expansive number of bacterial microbes through contact to vaginal, faecal and skin microbes following delivery (figure 2) [44,45]. Passage through the birth canal affords the neonate a microbiota similar to the mother's vagina, while CS babies' microbiota resembles the mother's skin and environmental microbes [45]. Broadly speaking, following birth, babies delivered by CS exhibit a decreased colonization of Bacteroides, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, with an increased abundance of Clostridium difficile and common microbes associated with the skin such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Propionibacterium [35,45,46]. There is a grey area with the differences in emergency versus planned CS, signifying that the onset of labour or membrane rupture can significantly alter the microbiota [46]. The microbial composition skews towards that of those delivered vaginally. While there is no clear answer to how long after birth the mode of delivery affects the microbiota of the child, the most significant differences are found up to 1 year after birth [47].

Figure 2. Comparison of bacteria present in the microbiomes of vaginally born and Caesarean-born infants. These ratios show the relative abundances of each species and combine the results of a number of studies.

After the first week of life and up to 1 month of age, CS babies consistently showed significantly lower levels of Bifidobacterium and higher levels of Klebsiella, Haemophilus and Veillonella [48,49]. During the same time period, vaginally born infants displayed an increased abundance of Bacteroides [49]. After the first 30 days and up to 90 days after birth, species diversity between delivery modes is not as significant however, several studies note that these differences are still detected. Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species are more abundant in vaginally delivered infants [50,51]. Within the Bacteroidetes phylum, the species diversity between CS and vaginally delivered babies is still present. CS delivered neonates typically display a lower abundance of Bacteroides and higher levels of Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium [49,52].

By the age of 6 months, the colonization patterns are almost the same between the two modes of delivery however, the Bacteroides and Parabacteroides species continue to be higher in vaginally delivered infants, while infants delivered by CS display a higher relative abundance of Clostridium spp. [31,47]. The variation in Lactobacillus colonization is no longer associated with delivery mode by the time the baby reaches 6 months of age [53]. Once the baby reaches a year of age, so many other factors are involved with the development of the microbiota of the baby that the differences are more difficult to attribute to the mode of delivery. The Bacteroides continued to appear in relatively lower abundances in CS delivered infants as well as a lower diversity in the species within the Firmicutes and Proteobacteria phyla [52].

The risks of developing immune-associated and allergic diseases, as well as hard to treat infections, are much higher following CS delivery. Conditions connected to delivery by CS include inflammatory bowel disease, T1D, coeliac disease, childhood asthma and obesity [54]. While it is clear that delivery by CS contributes to infant gut dysbiosis, there are strategies in place to help shape infants' gut microbiota to a normal composition and decrease the risk of infection and disease. In order to counteract the lack of exposure to the maternal vaginal community, a process termed ‘vaginal seeding’ can be carried out. About 1 h before the CS surgery, a sterile pad soaked in saline is inserted in the mother's vagina, provided she tests negative for GBS and vaginosis [55,56]. Within minutes of Caesarean birth, the infant is inoculated with the mother's vaginal fluid through a swab of gauze to the mouth, face and body [56]. Another common strategy to reduce the risk of immune-related diseases caused by dysbiosis of the microbiome of CS-delivered babies is to administer probiotics to high-risk pregnant women [57]. In addition, infant formula or probiotic drops are often supplemented with Lactobacillus reuteri to help lessen the effects of infant gut disorders [57].

4. Influence of feeding on the infant microbiome during the postnatal period

4.1. Human milk versus infant formula

The numerous benefits that breastfeeding provides both short-term and long-term for the child are well known. This is why the WHO recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by supplemental breastfeeding up to 2 years as solid foods are introduced [58]. Breast milk provides protective measures against the risk of acquiring infectious diseases and developing atopic disorders through its immunological components including immunoglobulins, cytokines, growth factors and microbiologic factors. These components are especially important for the growth and development of the young infant's immune system [59].

The composition of the milk is dynamic, changing throughout lactation to satisfy the needs of the infant at different stages of its development, especially during the first few weeks (table 1). The colostrum is the first milk produced after birth. It is a thick, yellow fluid, and while it lacks high nutritional value, it is rich in immunologic and growth factors [60]. Colostrum production begins mid-pregnancy and, at about 5 days postpartum, slowly transitions to traditional breast milk over a period of 2 weeks. By 4 weeks postpartum, the milk is considered fully mature with limited changes in composition throughout the remaining lactation period.

Table 1. Summary of significant components found in human milk.

Immunoglobulins (Ig) are important components that protect the neonatal gut against pathogenic bacteria. The immunoglobulins found in human milk include IgA, secretory IgA (SIgA), IgM, secretory IgM (SIgM) and IgG, with SIgA playing a central role in its defence against infectious disease [59]. While SIgA is present throughout all periods of breastfeeding, it is found in its highest concentrations in the colostrum [61]. SIgA works through binding to pathogens in the intestinal lumen, preventing their attachment to epithelial cells and mucosal regions [62,63].

Cytokines are secreted proteins found in human milk that function in developing the infants immune system through their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties [59,64]. The variety and concentrations of the individual cytokines vary from mother to mother and throughout the lactation period. However, interleukins-6, 8 and 10 (IL-6, IL-8 and IL-10), tumour necrosis factors-α and β (TNF-α and TNF-β), and transforming growth factors-α and β (TGF-α and TGF-β) are commonly found across lactating mothers [59,65]. IL-6 is involved with the biosynthesis of IgA cells in the mammary glands the highest levels are found in the colostrum [59,64]. Typically, IL-6 is found in higher concentrations in the mothers who deliver pre-term, indicating IL-6 is necessary to counteract the developmentally suppressed immune systems common among preterm babies [59].

The presence of a wide array of growth factors in human milk is especially important during the first weeks of life. These factors are responsible for the growth and development of a number of systems. The epidermal growth factor (EGF) is first present in the amniotic fluid and following birth, found both in the colostrum and mature milk. In the infant gut, EGFs promote cell proliferation and maturation of epithelial cells, as well as participate in intestinal mucosa repair [60,66]. The neuronal growth factors (NGFs) are involved in growth and development of the nervous system with a focus on both prenatal and postnatal brain maturation [60,67]. Erythropoietin (Epo), found in high concentrations in human milk, is a hormone involved in intestinal development and increased production of red blood cells, which in turn decreases the risk of anaemia [59].

In addition to the bioactive molecules present in human milk, the largest proportion of solid components includes the complex proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. The composition can be dynamic across mothers as the milk matures from the initial colostrum, but the average milk supply contains 3–5% fats, 0.8–0.9% proteins and 6.9–7.2% carbohydrates, with an additional 0.2% mineral component [68]. Milk fats make up 40–55% of the total energy in breast milk, with lactose providing an additional 40% [69,70]. Over 200 different fatty acids have been identified in human milk, with triglycerides accounting for over 98% of the fat content [69,71]. Complex lipids play a central role in brain and gastrointestinal development, as well as protection against pathogenic bacteria, specifically GBS [71].

With over 400 unique proteins found in human milk, the most common are casein, α-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, immunoglobulin IgA, lysozyme and serum albumin [71]. Milk proteins play a role in development of the neonatal gut and immune system, assist in nutrient absorption, and protect against pathogens through their antimicrobial activity [67,72]. Lactoferrin is found in high abundance in human milk and is known for its antibacterial activity against pathogens that gain virulence through an iron-mediated mechanism [73]. Lactoferrin has the ability to bind to two ferric ions, which is how it is thought to inhibit bacterial pathogens however, lactoferrin has also shown antimicrobial activity against non-iron requiring viruses and bacterial species [73,74].

While lactose is the most abundant carbohydrate found in human milk, human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are of the most interest when discussing the infant microbiome. HMOs are the third largest component in human milk, and, while infants are unable to digest them, they play an important role in shaping the microbiota of the developing gut and building up the young immune system. Over 200 unique HMOs have been identified, ranging from 3 to 22 sugars per molecule [71]. All HMOs are composed of five glycans: L-fucose, D-glucose, D-galactose, N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetylneuraminic acid [71]. Since they are relatively unaffected by digestion, HMOs are able to pass through the infant's stomach and small intestine intact, and they accumulate in the colon [75]. One of the primary functions of HMOs is to act as a prebiotic, allowing the growth of beneficial Bifidobacterium spp., while preventing the colonization of harmful pathogens.

In addition to the prebiotic nature of HMOs, breast milk is known to have probiotic properties that help to shape the infant gut microbiota. Once considered sterile, breast milk is actually the source of the 10 4 –10 6 bacterial cells per day that the infant consumes, with an average feeding of 800 ml per day [76]. While the source of the bacteria present in human milk is not completely clear, it is thought it is a combination of bacteria from the infant's oral cavity and from the mother's nipple and surrounding skin [75,77]. In exclusively breastfed infants, the most abundant bacterial genera are Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Bifidobacterium species dominate 70% of the strains [75,78]. The Bifidobacterium species most frequently detected that act to establish healthy gut flora are B. breve, B. longum, B. dentium, B. infantis and B. pseudocatenulatum [79,80].

For the first 6 months of the infant's life, when breast milk is typically the sole source of nutrition, the gut bacteria present varies significantly depending on the mother. While the introduction of solid foods does begin to create uniformity across the microbiome, there are still higher abundances of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species present in breastfed babies [81]. It is not until breastfeeding ceases that the child's microbiome begins to resemble an adult-like state.

There are a number of factors that can lead to the introduction of formula supplementation into a baby's diet however, only a limited number of neonates require formula for medical reasons. Social concerns and lack of prenatal breastfeeding education contribute to formula feeding, along with insufficient milk production due to limited mother-to-infant contact, worry over the baby not receiving enough milk, trouble calming a fussy baby, and a lack of sleep. In fact, 85% of mothers plan to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months. However, less than 50% breastfeed exclusively at 3 months and about 25% at 6 months [82,83]. According to the CDC, as of 2015, 17.2% of infants receive formula supplementation within the first 48 h [83]. During the first days postpartum, only a limited supply of milk is produced before the onset of lactogenesis at 2–4 days [84,85]. This is a critical period in which mother and infant separation can delay the establishment of breastfeeding or even hinder the process from starting. And while breast milk is considered the best nutrition for the baby during the first 6 months of life, the advancement of the nutritional contents in formula over the past several decades has made formula a healthy alternative.

The goal of formula design is to promote growth and development of the infant through a product that mimics the nutritional composition of human milk. This is a difficult task due to the complexity of breast milk and the changes that occur in the nutritional profile, especially the macronutrients, throughout the course of lactation. While formula companies do their best, it is not feasible to include some of the components, such as the bioactive materials found in human milk, in their formula. Infant formula is government regulated to ensure the proper composition of proteins, fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals [70]. Cow's milk and soy milk are the two most common bases for infant formula. However, there are several additional specialized formulae available on the market to meet the needs of babies with certain sensitivities. Due to the high abundance of fats and proteins in cow's milk, it first must be diluted to a similar composition to human milk [70]. For babies with either colic or milk allergies, soy-based formulae are a common substitute.

Infant formulae are commonly fortified with prebiotics and/or probiotics to incorporate some of the beneficial components found in human milk [16,86]. Prebiotics are nondigestible oligosaccharides that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. The most common oligosaccharides supplemented into formula are short-chain galacto-OS (GOS), long-chain fructo-OS (FOS) and polydextrose [87,88]. These oligosaccharides have been shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial Bifidobacterium and lower the abundance of E. coli and Enterococcus [87–89]. Probiotics are non-pathogenic, live microbial organisms that promote the growth of beneficial flora such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp. [90]. The addition of these probiotics has been known to reduce the susceptibility of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and the symptoms of colic [91,92].

The microbial composition of the infant gut of formula-fed babies is vastly different from that of breastfed babies. It has been shown that, even for mixed-fed babies (those who supplement formula between breast feedings), the gut microbiota more closely resembles the patterns of exclusively formula fed babies [82]. The infant microbiome is shifted towards that of an adult at a quicker rate with higher overall bacterial diversity [82]. The gut is dominated by Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus and Clostridium species, as well as specific species of Bifidobacterium [93,94]. In addition, in exclusively formula-fed babies, a greater prevalence of E. coli, C. difficile, B. fragilis and Lactobacilli species has been observed to colonize the gut [75,95].

4.2. Introduction to solid foods

The process of weaning, when the introduction of solid foods begins, typically starts at around 4–6 months and continues until the baby is approximately 2 years old. The WHO recommends complementary feeding should be gradual, in which the baby is still feeding off of either infant formula or breast milk as ‘family foods’ are supplemented into the diet [96]. Weaning becomes necessary when breast milk or infant formula no longer provides the necessary nutrients for the baby. Typically, at around 6 months of age babies begin to show signs they are ready by losing interest in nursing or becoming more interested in eating solid foods. According to the CDC, solid foods should be introduced one at a time to ensure that none of the common allergies to milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soya beans are present [97].

The weaning process must progress in a timely manner to ensure that the digestive system matures properly. Pancreatic function, small intestine absorption and fermentation capacity are underdeveloped during the early weaning stages [98]. While there are enzymes present in the saliva that help break down food, it is not until 6 months of age that the pancreas secretes enough enzymes including α-amylase to digest starches and proteins [99]. Until the pancreas gains full function, there are a vast number of non-digestible carbohydrates that are absorbed by the colon and allow the growth of beneficial bacteria that are unable to proliferate in a breast milk or formula diet [98].

Iron and vitamin D are commonly supplemented into a weaning infant's diet to reduce the risk of deficiencies. Babies are born with a supply of iron from their mothers this iron is depleted by approximately 6 months of age [100]. At this point, babies must consume either an iron-fortified infant formula or eat a diet of iron-containing foods. Iron is essential for humans to synthesize haemoglobin, which is required to transport oxygen from the lungs to all the other cells in the body. When there is an iron deficiency, there are significant differences in the microbial environments of the infant gut. While most bacteria require iron for survival, growth and proliferation, in iron-low conditions, there is an increase in Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp., which have little to no need for iron [101]. Vitamin D not only is crucial for building strong bones, but plays a role in the maturation of the gut microbiome. Vitamin D is enriched in breast milk and infant formula however, during weaning, babies should be consuming vitamin-D-fortified milk, yogurt and cereals.

While it was previously thought that the introduction of solid foods alters the gut microbial composition, it is the cessation of breastfeeding that is now attributed to shifting the microbiota to an adult-like state. In general, the introduction of solid foods alters the gut microbiota to be dominated by bacteria within the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla. At the genus level, there is an increase in Atopobium, Clostridium, Akkermansia, Bacteroides, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcus spp. concurrently there is a decrease in Escherichia and Staphylococcus spp. [75,102]. During the initial weaning period, when breastfeeding is still the sole source of nutrition, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp. continue to dominate at consistent amounts [75,103]. Even after several months of complementary feeding, these infants displayed lower abundances of Clostridium leptum, Clostridium coccoides and Roseburia spp. There is an increase in the abundance of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Collinsella, Megasphaera and Veillonella compared with those who ceased breastfeeding [75,81]. Formula-fed babies during the same period exhibit higher abundances of Bacteroides, Clostridium difficile, Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium coccoides, with overall less mature microbiota [98].

5. Environmental exposure

In addition to the obvious determinants of infant microbiome diversity, including mode of delivery, breastfeeding versus formula feeding, antibiotic use and introduction of solid foods, environmental exposures can also play a key role in the variability of that microbiota. Hospital setting, cohabitation with family members, geographical location, air quality, pet and animal exposure, and daycare are all included in the environment factors that contribute to neonatal microbiome development. A focus on neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospital environment and exposure to pets is examined in this review since there exists exhaustive research in this area.

One of the earliest routes of microbial transmission is in the hospital with the majority of births occurring in the setting or quickly being transferred there. Specifically, the NICU is associated with increased exposure to a diverse microbial community. While not an exhaustive or conclusive list, some of the common causes of preterm labour are maternal ethnicity, body mass index and age, infection or inflammation, smoking, and stress [104]. Due to the nature of the preterm birth, infants are often born spontaneously vaginally or through emergency CS. The mortality and infection rates of preterm infants are much higher than their full-term counterparts because their compromised immune systems make them more prone to NICU-acquired infections [105]. Even with intensive sanitization and care to keep the NICU a sterile environment, a plethora of both pathogenic and commensal bacterial species are found both on surfaces and elsewhere within the facility. The most common bacteria that are found to colonize on neonate-associated surfaces, which includes ventilators, CPAP machines, stethoscopes, feeding tubes, catheters and pacifiers, are Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Neisseria, Pseudomonas and Enterobacteriaceae species [106,107]. The most prevalent environmental bacteria found within the NICU include Geobacillus, Halomonas, Shewanella, Acinetobacter and Gemella species [106,108].

The correlation between the infant gut microbiota and the bacterial species present in the NICU environment is evident through stool evaluation. In general, Clostridia species (specifically C. perfringens, C. butyricum, C. difficile and C. paraputrificum) are found in high abundances in the infant microbiota [109–111]. Staphylococcus species are found to be highly abundant in very-low-birthweight (VLBW) NICU infants, especially on the skin, but are also present in the gastrointestinal tract [110,112]. The stools of the VLBW neonates are typically colonized by Klebsiella, Enterobacter and Enterococcus species, while Streptococcus species dominate the saliva [108,112–114]. This is compared with normal-birthweight, healthy infants in which Escherichia, Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides species are found in higher abundances [108,110,112].

Early exposure to pets and other animals has been known to play a pivotal role in shaping the gut microbiome and is associated with a higher immunity and lower prevalence of allergy and asthma development. The microbial composition of homes with pets is examined through vacuumed house dust [35]. In general, homes with pets show lower abundances of Bifidobacteriaceae and higher abundances of Peptostreptococcaceae [115,116]. When compared with pet-free homes, infants are more likely to be colonized by Bifidobacterium species pseudolongum, thermophilum and longum. In one study B. longum was associated with a protective effect against bronchitis [35,115,117]. In another study with mice, there was found to be an increase of Lactobacillus johnsonii, providing a probiotic type of effect on the gut microbiota [118].

6. The TEDDY study

Gaining insight on the development of the microbiome from in utero through infancy into childhood is an important tool in helping us understand what role bacteria plays in human disease. One study, titled The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY), aimed to find a correlation between the early life factors that shape the infant gut microbiome and the risk of acquiring T1D. Two separate TEDDY studies have analysed the stools of children from around 3 months of age to the clinical endpoint (about 46 months of age) [119,120].

The key takeaway from the first study, which sequenced 12 500 stool samples from 903 children, concluded there are three stages of gut microbiome development: the developmental phase (3–14 months of age), the transitional phase (15–30 months of age) and the stable phase (31–46 months of age) [120]. This study was able to track the bacterial make-up throughout the entire 43-month time frame attribute changes in the gut flora to either environmental, maternal or postnatal effects and analyse whether or not this information could predict the onset of T1D [120]. Consistently in this study an increased abundance of Bacteroides and lower abundances of short-chain fatty acid producing bacteria were found [120].

The second TEDDY study analysed 10 913 stool samples from 783 children and followed a similar protocol to the first study [119]. Data were collected until either islet immunity was reached or the child persisted to test positive for T1D. The key takeaway from this study was that specific strains of bacteria may not be the cause of T1D, as was thought in the first study. In healthy control children, researchers found that the children's bodies contained more genes that are associated with fermentation and the biosynthesis of short-chain fatty acids [119]. This suggests that the short-chain fatty acids, instead of bacteria, are more vital in protecting the body against the onset of T1D [119].

While this comprehensive review on the development of the gut microbiome only focuses on the first year of life, it is important to recognize that the microbiome continues to mature after this critical stage. These two TEDDY studies together, while not conclusive, have laid the foundation for a necessary understanding of how the make-up of the microbiome can predict human disease.

7. Conclusion and future outlook

The early microbiome appears to follow a progression from organisms that facilitate lactate utilization during strict lactation to anaerobic organisms involved in the metabolism of solid foods containing complex starches, once introduced. At around 12 months old, the infant microbiome achieves a more complex structure, and becomes similar to that of adults by the age of 3 years. In addition to facilitating nutrient usage, the ecological succession of the infant microbiome educates the immature immune and metabolic systems. Disruption of what has evolved to be a ‘normal’ assembly process may have considerable downstream consequences for the development of autoimmune and metabolic pathologies.

Going forward, governing the infant microbiome will almost certainly focus on three areas. First is reducing the use of Caesarean delivery, as this practice is associated with alterations to the infant microbiome. The second major focus will be on decreasing the misuse and overuse of antibiotics during the perinatal period—particularly until we better understand the downstream effects of such treatments on the mother and child. The third area will probably focus on an increase in breastfeeding and using the components of human milk for novel food products and therapeutics [121].


Why Do Animals Sometimes Kill Their Babies?

Is it natural—or pathological—when a mother kills and eats her own offspring? Or when a brother kills his sister's child?

When Khali, a sloth bear at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., went into labor in late December last year, her keepers were thrilled. But soon after Khali delivered her first cub, something went wrong.

"We don't really know what happened," says Tony Barthel, a mammal curator in the zoo's Asia Trail section. He and the bears' keepers were watching Khali on a closed-circuit television. They cheered when they saw the palm-size cub come into the world.

Then, 20 minutes later, Khali—still in labor with other cubs—bent down, not to lick her newborn, but to eat it. The cheers turned to gasps of dismay.

"Our assumption is that the cub was not well, and it died," Barthel says.

Khali gave birth to two more cubs that day, and for the next week, she was as attentive, calm, and nurturing as a mother sloth bear could be. (She was an experienced mom, having raised two other cubs at a different zoo in 2004.)

The keepers continued to monitor her and her cubs, as they do with all bear mothers. So they were on hand when Khali ate another of her babies and turned her back on the third.

Rescuing a Baby . From Mom

Barthel and the keepers decided they had to intervene. On January 6, they retrieved Khali's last surviving infant—a female—from her den. They rushed the cub to the zoo's veterinary hospital, where she was found to be hypothermic and suffering from an infection.

"She was ill, with an elevated white blood cell count," Barthel says. "We don't know if this was the case with her other two cubs, but my assumption is they were not well."

Shortly afterward, all the sloth bears fell ill with a flu virus, which may have caused the cubs' illness.

To save the lone cub, the veterinarians immediately treated her with antibiotics and placed her in an incubator to restore her body temperature. A few hours later she was happily nursing from a bottle.

And the keepers were left trying to answer what seems the cruelest and most unthinkable of questions: Why would a mother eat her own young?

"It can seem unnatural," Barthel says, "but there are reasons. They might sound cold to us, but they're simple—and they have to do with resources."

Indeed, mother bears, felines, canids, primates, and many species of rodents—from rats to prairie dogs—have all been seen killing and eating their young. Insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds also have been implicated in killing, and sometimes devouring, the young of their own kind.

When mammalian mothers give birth, they must begin nursing their infants—something they can do only if they're healthy and well nourished.

But if, for instance, a mother bear in the wild gives birth to unhealthy or deformed cubs, or is unable to find enough to eat, she will typically kill and consume them.

"They become a resource, one she can't afford to waste," Barthel says.

A mother bear—or lion or wild dog—does the same if she can't nurse her cubs or find food for them. And if one of her cubs dies, she'll most likely eat it immediately, as Khali did. This nourishes her and has the added benefit of removing the carcass. "That way there's nothing rotting in her den which might attract predators," Barthel says.

As reasonable as these decisions sound, there's still something profoundly upsetting about the deed—so much so that even biologists used to regard it as a pathological behavior. In some cases, depending on the circumstances, they still do.

"Before the 1970s, any type of infanticide in animals was considered pathological," says Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "Now, certain scenarios are recognized as part of an animal's reproductive strategy."

Male lions are one of the most cited examples of this type of infanticide. Typically, a pride of lions includes one or two adult males who father the cubs. If other males successfully oust these fathers, the newcomers almost immediately kill any young cubs, particularly those the female lions are nursing—despite every effort on the mothers' part to stop the slaughter. Then the females quickly become fertile again and mate with the very males who killed their cubs.

From the newcomers' standpoint, "there's no sense in spending energy or resources raising the previous males' cubs," Stanford says, since the new males are most likely unrelated.

In the game of life, the prize goes to the individuals who have the most reproductive success and pass on the most genes—a task best accomplished by raising your own offspring or helping to raise those of your relatives. Assisting unrelated individuals adds nothing to your reproductive scorecard.

This type of infanticide is found in almost every primate species, including chimpanzees, gorillas—and, as much as we would like to deny it, humans.

Male bonobos are one of the few great apes who have not been seen killing infants. This is probably because female bonobos are the dominant members of their societies, making it risky for the males to attack any youngsters. Also, bonobos happily mate with everyone in their community. Thus, males aren't readily able to identify which kids are theirs.

A common counter-reproductive strategy of females in many animal societies is to confuse males about which (if any) kids they've fathered. It doesn't always work.

Male bottlenose dolphins, for instance, remember which females they've mated with. When a male dolphin encounters a strange female with a young calf, he'll do his best to separate the pair and will then severely injure or kill the youngster by bashing it and heaving it through the air.

If the infant dies, the mother will become fertile in a few months—giving the killer male a chance to father her next calf. If the infant lives, the mother won't be receptive for another three to four years—a long time from a male's standpoint. In the game of life, it doesn't pay to wait for her to rear her kid, especially if you know it's not yours. Better to get rid of it.

Zoos generally try to prevent killings by males by carefully managing the reproductive events of the animals in their care. But sometimes animals behave in unpredictable ways.

That's what happened in 2012 when, as visitors looked on, an adult male chimpanzee bashed and killed his sister Gracie's three-month-old baby at the Los Angeles Zoo.

The zookeepers had kept Gracie away from the rest of the troop for three months after she gave birth, giving her time to bond peacefully with her infant.

All seemed to be going well, and the keepers decided to slowly reintroduce the pair to their community. The other chimpanzees welcomed back the pair, and peered with curiosity at the new infant—the first baby chimp born at the zoo in 13 years.

But one day, without warning, Gracie's brother snatched the infant from her arms and dashed around the enclosure slamming her against the ground and walls. Despite Gracie's cries and protests, he wouldn't give back the now-dead baby, and it wasn't possible for the keepers to intervene.

"He used the baby for a big display, to show off," Stanford says. "It's impossible to explain why.

"It was very odd because the male was the mother's brother the baby was his niece," Stanford adds. "It's not the usual scenario that happens in the wild, so it's difficult to explain. But as far as I can tell, it did not involve any mismanagement by the zoo. It wasn't caused by the chimpanzees being in captivity."

According to the rules of reproductive success, it would have made the most sense for Gracie's brother to protect his niece because they were related. If his niece grew up and had babies of her own, they would also carry some of his genetic legacy. His reproductive success would be enhanced.

Perhaps it wasn't intentional. Perhaps it was simply because he was a young male, prone to making exuberant displays, Stanford says.

The zoo's keepers and visitors were heartbroken. And the staff did its best to help Gracie by giving her the body of her baby to grieve over in a separate room.

"She recognizes that it's dead," a staff member told the press at the time of the incident, adding that Gracie spent a day and night sitting quietly beside her baby's body.

Baby Sloth Bear May Go Back to Mom

For sloth bear Khali's third cub, life is on an upswing. Her eyes were still tightly shut when the keepers took her from her mother, but they opened to the world on January 26. (The zoo has yet to name the cub.) She's been carried and cuddled and rocked in a rocking chair, with someone tending her 24 hours a day, bottle-feeding her at regular intervals.

"She's getting to be a handful," Barthel says. "She's full of energy and has a very strong mouth. We used to keep her in a sling and walk her from place to place, but she's too big for that now."

Normally, a newborn cub would ride on its mother's back for several months.


Are baby rattlesnakes really more dangerous than adults?

A rattlesnake den in Eastern WA state, full of rattlesnakes of all ages and sizes.

Contrary to popular belief, the bite of a baby rattlesnake is almost always far less serious than the bite of a larger adult rattlesnake. The notion that baby rattlesnakes cannot control the quantity of venom injected (referred to in the field of Herpetology as “venom metering”) is a myth that has been disproven multiple times through well-designed studies. See this excellent paper by the esteemed rattlesnake venom researcher Dr. William Hayes for evidence of this fact:

Hayes WK. Venom metering by juvenile prairie rattle- snakes (Crotalus v. viridis): effects of prey size and experience. Anim Behav. 199550:33–40.

In any snakebite, the severity is determined by a combination of different factors: those related to the snake that just bit you, and those related to your unique biology, your medical history, and the circumstances surrounding the bite. The outcome of a bite is determined by the aforementioned factors in addition to the speed of the treatment sought by the patient and the appropriateness of the treatment given by the medical team. The answer to the question of whether baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults lies primarily on the snake-related side of the equation. The pertinent snake factors for this question fall into two categories: the composition of the venom and the quantity of venom injected into the patient.


Things to know about a gopher's appearance, biology, life cycle, habitat, diet, behavior

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An animal that usually ranges from about five to fifteen inches in length, these burrowing rodents are really not the biggest animal that you’ll come up against as a land or property owner. Despite being a small creature, weighing just a pound in most cases, they can cause some pretty extensive damage.

Where do gophers live?
Gophers (or ground squirrels/pocket gophers) are another of the burrowing creatures that you may find you have problems with in your yard. There’s very little chance of seeing one of these in the flesh. They spend almost all of their time underground, about eighteen inches underground, to be exact. If you were to slice off the top layer, you would find one central tunnel with a bunch of smaller tunnels branching out from it. It’s this confusing (to us) tunnel layout that helps them to keep safe. If a predator were able to get inside their burrows, there would be very little chance of them finding anything to prey on. The complicated tunnel system would make that very difficult, often leaving an invader lost and confused.

As well as being quite deep below the ground, these gopher tunnels can be extensive, in some cases, up to six hundred feet worth of tunnel. This causes innumerable damage to land, and it can put lives at risk, causing buildings and other structures to become unstable and unsafe.

Fields of crops, gardens, vegetable patches, parks, and other large lawn spaces provide the perfect home for the average gopher, providing it with everything to stay safe and flourish. Sandy and loose soil makes it easy for the creature to burrow down, and plenty of plants growing on top of that provides cover for when the gopher pops up to eat. If you have a gopher problem on your land, you will more than likely find that you get small hills forming, much like mole hills. This is where the gopher pops its head up from underground to forage for food.

Gophers can live quite close to eat other, and in groups too. In one acre patch of land alone, there can be as many as sixty gophers there, although mothers tend to wander off and care for her young alone, rather than stay in the relative safety of a group.

What do gophers eat?
You’ll know when you have a gopher on your property, rather than a mole, because moles don’t eat plants, but gophers do. They eat a lot too. The biggest of them have been known to eat over half of their own body weight every day. That would be like the average 140-pound woman eat 140 pounds worth of food each day.

Any plants will do. These animals aren’t really that fussy. They’ll eat plants such as trees and shrubs, grasses, roots and bulbs, and they’ll even eat the tubers and the seeds from those plants too. If you have onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, or other underground-growing foods, they’ll be attacked. Carrots and garlic are other favorites for them, it would seem. They seem to particularly love lettuce.

There aren’t many plant-based foods that these animals won't eat, although it has been reported that they don’t appreciate the taste of rhubarb very much. Some farmers or vegetable-growers have even taken to adding rhubarb around the hardest hit foods, such as lettuce.

Are gophers aggressive?
Gophers very rarely venture to the surface. They would much prefer to tug their underground foods further underground, into their tunnel, rather than go venturing out to hunt for food. It’s dangerous out there, especially for a tiny animal, such as the gopher. There are many predators it needs to worry about, including a few in the air — owls, eagles and hawks. That’s just half the problem too. There are a number of gopher predators on the ground — weasels, badgers, coyotes, snakes, and plenty more.

Male gophers are very aggressive, especially when intruders come along. They will not hesitate to bite a human — adult or child, and a pet cat or dog will come under threat too, should they get too close. These creatures like to live alone, and they don't like sharing their tunnel spaces either. You won't find a mole and a gopher living in the same tunnel system, for example.

Female gophers can be very aggressive when she is taking care of the young, and she tends to do that alone. These critters can breed two to three times every year, which means there’s a good chance any gopher you see will ALWAYS be raising young. They will also always be defending their territories. We recommend that you don't get too close to a gopher, should you see one. You shouldn’t go shoving your hand down any holes that you believe belong to moles either.

How many babies will gophers have?
The better the conditions are, the more frequently the gophers will breed. If the conditions are right, they can have a few litters, each one containing as many as five or six young. Usually, only a few a born — two or three. Those babies stay with their mother for just over a month, usually 40 days, before they are weaned. When they are initially born, they are hairless and they can't see, making them entirely useless, helpless, and dependent on their mother for things like food.

How long do gophers live for?
In the right conditions, a gopher can live for about five or six years. The conditions are rarely right for the animal ‘in the wild’, however, and as well as coming under attack from predators, they also have the risk of starvation, dehydration, hyperthermia, and disease. They will reach their sexual maturity at about twelve months of age, but rarely live longer than 2/3 years.

Read the How to Get Rid of Gophers page.
For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How To Guide: Who should I hire? - What questions to ask, to look for, who NOT to hire.
How To Guide: do it yourself! - Advice on saving money by doing wildlife removal yourself.
Guide: How much does wildlife removal cost? - Analysis of wildlife control prices.


Elephant Feeding

All elephants are herbivores which means that they consume only plant life. They will get it anywhere they can. Part of the reason why they have been able to survive for millions of years is due to their intelligence. What they lack in basic survival skills they make up for with creativity. In fact, it can be fascinating to watch elephants feeding in their natural environment.

Due to their large size they can get food from the ground all the way up to high areas of trees. They can even use their trunks to reach fruits growing up there that other types of animals simply can’t reach. They are very intelligent when it comes to getting food as well. They aren’t going to walk away and leave that food source for other animals that come along.

For example if the food they want is too high, they will wrap the trunk around it and then shake it rapidly. This process usually is one that allows plenty of food to fall to the group for them and their offspring to consume. If that doesn’t work the elephant may just take the entire tree or plant out of the ground and then consume it.

One of the biggest problems facing them in the wild is that lack of available food. Since their habitat continues to get smaller and smaller they have fewer choices for feeding. They also may be in competition in some areas with other elephants for the same sources of food.

Elephants can spend up to 16 hours a day looking for food. They don’t seem to be in a hurry to find it, and take their time grazing. One of the reasons why they have to consume so much food daily is due to their bodies. They only process about 40% of what they eat as the rest of it never gets digested.

The digestion process for the elephant is very different than that of other animals. It really isn’t understood why their bodies don’t digest more of what they consume. They need to consume lots of water and this is done through the trunk. They can consume up to 15 quarts of water at one time. During certain parts of the year it is hard for them to find plenty of water though.

They will use their tusks to dig into the ground to find the water supplies that they need. This water is also used by other animals in the wild. Many people feel that the elephant’s eating habits destroy the environment on a large scale. However, they tend to move around often enough that they don’t deplete a given area of all of the vegetation there. This movement actually allows more of it to grow there.

The mothers provide rich milk to their offspring for about 4 years. If she gets pregnant in that span of time though she will wean them early. In order for the mothers to get enough food to create the milk they do so during the day and other females in the herd watch after the young. While the babies can start to consume plants at about a year old, they need the nutritional value of that milk to grow and to thrive.

Sadly, as an elephant gets older the teeth start to wear away from this type of diet. That is why so many of them end up dying from starvation. It is a slow process and one that seems to take quite a toll on the entire herd due to the strong bonds that they form in their herds.

References

R. Sukumar. The Living Elephants: Evolutionary Ecology, Behaviour, and Conservation. Oxford University Press, USA, 2003.

Murray E. Fowler, Susan K. Mikota. Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants. John Wiley & Sons,2008.


Watch the video: Χιμπατζής αγκαλιάζει τη γυναίκα που τον έσωσε (May 2022).


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