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Neoteny; Nidicolous


An immature state of development following birth or hatching that necessitates care by others.


Altricial animals are born in an immature state and unable to care for themselves. Owls, kangaroos, cats, dogs, and humans are examples of altricial species. In contrast, precocial organisms are mobile and independent within hours or days following birth or hatch (e.g., ducks, zebras). Because of the extensive care altricial organisms require, they are usually born as singletons or in small numbers into social groups where there is the opportunity to have more than one caregiver.

Humans require care for a long period of time and reach sexual maturity and adulthood after a long period of postnatal development. The benefit of this lengthy period of immaturity is that the nervous system has an extended period to develop, ultimately resulting in more complexity and greater cognitive ability. Infancy, childhood and adolescence provide humans with...

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Sleigh, M. (2011). Altricial. In: Goldstein, S., Naglieri, J.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. Springer, Boston, MA.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Boston, MA

  • Print ISBN: 978-0-387-77579-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-0-387-79061-9

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