Have you ever wondered why a baby elephant can stand up within minutes of its birth, while a human baby cannot even support his neck, forget standing up, for months after childbirth? We’ve all known that human babies don’t develop as fast as other mammals, but what we haven’t known is why. Here we look at why human babies are more helpless than other mammal offspring.
A recent study claims that human babies may be the most immature of all mammal species. The study also hints at why human beings have a larger brain than most mammals, and the reason is quite confusing; they say it’s to compensate for the helplessness of babies.
According to University of Rochester assistant professor Dr. Celeste Kidd, “Human infants are born far more helpless and immature than other species. If you consider a giraffe’s offspring, they can walk around and successfully evade predators within hours of their births, while human babies cannot support their necks.”
Co-study author Dr. Steven Piantadosi theorizes that ‘a self-reinforcing cycle’ is at work here. The larger than normal brains in human beings lead to premature offspring, who mature once they are outside the womb, and the parents have to be intelligent enough to care for the progeny.
The size of the brain has helped many processes evolve to suit a human’s needs. As a result, infants are born earlier in their development than other mammals. The brain is small enough to pass through the uterus. And, this cycle continues, which is why human infants take months and years, and require assistance, to reach developmental milestones, while other primates are born ready.
The study also explains why humans evolved a larger brain than other primates.
says, “Our theory explains specifically why primates developed super intelligence but dinosaurs – who faced many of the same environmental pressures and had more time to do so – did not. Dinosaurs matured in eggs, so there was no linking between intelligence and infant immaturity at birth.”
Many other experts also theorize that harsh living conditions and hunting in groups have played an important part in shaping human intelligence.