Most species pass down surprising survival tools

Survival tools are many and most species have a decent kit on hand.

Poisons, claws, teeth, stinging hair, stink and ink are among the more direct of them, but the subtle save more than their share of lives too.

For most every pitfall and obstacle a species is given, they are also given the means to a work-around for the problem.

Sharna Johnson

Sharna Johnson

So when you are destined to create anywhere from 50 to hundreds of offspring in a year, some extra tools to teach the kiddos what they need to know could be real helpful.

Imagine at conception if the little ones were programmed with all the cautions and info they need to keep them safe through life — look both ways, don’t play with fire, beware of strangers — all prewritten in their little brains before they even open their eyes.

Mice, it turns out, do just that.

The fancy term is epigenetics, but the basic concept is pretty simple — traumas and things that cause fear become part of a creature’s genetic can pass on code and get passed on to the next generation.

Not a new concept, scientists at Emory University in Atlanta recently published their findings from a study the conducted to see if mice handed down such information to the next generation.

In the study, male mice were given fear conditioning by being exposed to the smell of cherry blossoms and receiving shocks each time they smelled the scent.

After the conditioning, the mice bred and their offspring were tested.

Even though they had never been exposed to the scent before, the young mice showed fear when they smelled it.

To be sure word about the shocking cherry blossoms wasn’t being spread through interactions between the mice, scientists bred pups from the conditioned fathers using artificial insemination — and achieved the same result.

They also looked at the neurological responses of the young mice when the scent was present and found they had a heightened sensitivity to the smell over other mice and found the same results in a second generation of mice descended from the test males.

The conclusion they reached was that the male mice had indeed passed the message about the cherry blossom smell to their children through genetic means, and while the study was conducted on mice, scientists suspect it’s a mammal thing that occurs in other species as well.

Besides electrocuting cherry blossoms, it makes you wonder what else the younger generations been warned about before they are born.

Since youngin’s will put just about anything in their mouths, touch everything in sight, wander as far as their feet can carry them, and talk to anyone who will listen, it’s not likely the parenting gig is at risk of being antiquated, but there are probably already pretty strong messages getting handed down.

So maybe all the little things don’t get passed on, but major events such as war and epidemics just might be strong enough to create aversions in generations that have never experienced anything close.

It’s also possible that strange phobias could get passed on, for instance a fear of clowns could ripple through an entire family line because a great-great grandparent saw a horror movie in their youth.

One day, future generations may even be able to reverse the process and trace backwards like a genetic history book of fears — here’s hoping it’s full of cherry blossoms.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:

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