Animals do not recognize relatives when mating. What if a male animal meets his own mother?

Viewers who have watched documentaries such as “Animal World” may know that in a lion group, if a young male lion defeats the old lion king, he will inherit the mating rights of all the female lions in the group, and this group of female lions may also include his sisters and mother. The mating process of animals can, to some extent, be said to be “unrecognizing relatives”, but there is also a rumor that “horses do not bully their mothers”, is this true?

[Do horses really not bully their mothers?]

When a male animals meets his mother, can he tell the difference and will he mate with her?

Animal breeding

Almost all animals have a strong sense of mission to reproduce . For example, many insects, such as silkworms, moths, and mosquitoes, the first thing they do after breaking out of their cocoons is to find a mate to complete the important task of reproducing the next generation, even if the mother will die of exhaustion after laying eggs .

The same is true for marine animals such as salmon and octopus, where females almost always die after giving birth .

[Salmon migrate to their birthplace to lay eggs]
[Salmon migrate to their birthplace to lay eggs]

There are also some animals such as spiders, mantises, and anglerfish, in which the male is either eaten by the female after mating, or becomes a simple sexual organ, but he still has to fulfill the “important task” of reproduction.

Rodents like rabbits and mice, because they are at the bottom of the food chain, reach sexual maturity very quickly and have a short gestation period in order to continue their species. They can give birth to nearly ten babies at a time and six babies a year, ensuring the number of babies that survive through sheer numbers .

However, no matter how or what mode of reproduction is used, no one can escape one problem – inbreeding.

The dangers of inbreeding

Inbreeding is not only found in animals, but also in humans. In ancient China, it was not uncommon for cousins ​​to marry each other. In ancient Western countries, the royal families would even marry their own blood relatives to ensure the purity of their bloodline.

But the harm is enormous.

Because the gene combinations are very similar, many defective genes will have a very high probability of appearing in the offspring . For humans, the offspring are likely to have problems such as deformities, mental retardation, and various serious genetic diseases.

The news of four generations of incest in an Australian family that broke out in 2012 was enough to prove that not only were they committing incest, but more than half of the 40 people in the family were the products of incest, and 12 of these 40 people had deformities to varying degrees.

The same is true for animals. Take domestic pigs as an example. If inbreeding occurs, the offspring will not only be more susceptible to disease and slow growth, but will also have deformities.

How animals avoid inbreeding

Although animals do not understand science, nor do they understand science or DNA, hundreds of millions of years of evolution have given animals some ways to avoid inbreeding.

Among social animals, most adult individuals in a group are female . For example, adult elephants in an elephant herd are almost all female elephants, and adult lions in a lion pride generally only have one male lion.

Elephant Herd

Male individuals, such as lions, are usually expelled from the lion group when they are close to adulthood but not yet adults . Male lions will train alone and stay away from their original lion group.

Lions Group

When the time is right, he will encounter another unfamiliar lion group and then challenge the old lion king of the lion group. If he wins, he can integrate into the lion group and obtain the mating rights of all females until he is defeated by the next male lion (this is why some male lions bite the young lions in the lion group to death as soon as they arrive). If he loses, he will continue to wander.

Groups like the “Bad Boy” Lions League are extremely rare.

Lions Alliance

Solitary animals such as tigers, regardless of gender, will leave their mothers to survive on their own before they reach adulthood. Each animal has its own territory and does not invade each other.

When the estrus period comes, the smell released will attract tigers of the opposite sex. After mating, they will go their separate ways and never see each other again .

There are also monogamous animals like swans, which stay with one partner for life and have a lower probability of inbreeding .

Some animals have a keen sense of smell and can distinguish the scent of their relatives . They will also try to avoid mating with other individuals with familiar scents.

Females of some animals also delay coming into estrus if no other individuals other than relatives are present.

However, inbreeding cannot be avoided 100%, and sometimes it is even necessary.

Why do animals inbreed?

The first is because the population is endanger. In order to make the population reproduce and grow , humans will purposefully conduct scientific intervention on animals.

For example, at the beginning of the last century. There were only 13 Asiatic lions that could be monitor , so people had to capture and breed them all.

In order to increase their numbers, they had to resort to inbreeding.

By the beginning of the 21st century, the number of Asiatic lions finally reached 350. But these Asiatic lions were obviously not as agile and strong as they once were.

However, this is not just wishful thinking on the part of humans. When facing the risk of extinction, animals will also choose inbreeding. But their efficiency is not as fast as human intervention.

Male animal

The second situation is that the stray male animal accidentally returns to the original group .

Let’s take lions as an example. Lion groups have their own territories, but sometimes they migrate according to the environment. After being separate, the descendants of this lion group may go around and reunite with the lion group.

But at this time, the single, young and strong male lion may have forgotten his former relatives. And directly defeated the old lion king. That is, the father, and obtained all the rights of the lion group, including the mother and sisters.

In this case , male lions will still mate and reproduce with their relatives .

However, this situation is rare. Most males animals will try to avoid their mothers because they remember their mothers’ smell .

And even if they reproduce in the near future, the male lions will be replace by new lion kings. After one or two generations, so it will not have much impact on the entire lion group.

Except for the expelled sons, the daughters who originally stayed in the lion group may not have grown up completely before the lion king replaced them. So the situation of father and daughter reproduction generally does not occur.

As for the saying that a horse does not bully its mother., It comes from a story: a stallion was blindfold and mated with his mother, and then he committed suicide out of grief.

This is actually a choice made by nature. Animals have no sense of ethics, but the evolution of nature will make them avoid inbreeding as much as possible. It’s just that the saying “a horse does not bully its mother”. It has been beautified by humans who have emotions and ethics.


【1】《Natural Legend》 20191218 Exploring the Mystery of Lions ·

【2】Bad Boys Lions League: Road to the Lion King·NetEase Documentary

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