The Elements of Evolution (51-2-2) Precocial & Altricial Animals


Broadly, the shorter the life span or less parental care the more acumen tends to be inborn. This is especially true for precocial species which hatch and are on their own from birth.

Another consideration is that longevity is an evolutionary advance. Organisms with long, fluid, evolutionary lineages are short-lived, and their life solutions are generally baked in, if for no other reason than there has been abundant evolutionary time for the most-needed behavioral variations to have be encoded.

That withstanding, microbes pick up new tricks all the time. Literally. Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) affords instant knowledge uptake: canned wisdom, where plasmids act as the can. HGT provides a virtual planetary library to viruses and is a ready source of local self-help tips to microbes of every stripe.

In contrast, animals with longer lives, which are typically altricial, have much to learn, though they too are born with a hefty set of instincts. Still, as corvids illustrate, memory and flexibility in problem-solving pay survival dividends.

Intelligence comprises situational comprehension coupled to the ability to take advantage of that information. The source of intelligent behavior, whether innate or ad hoc, is entirely beside the point of its exhibition.

One is rationally hard-pressed to demean as inferior instinctual reflex to cogitation when hard-wired responses get the job done. Instinct is intelligence, at least when it works: success always being the metric of intelligence, however arrived at.