Animals are mostly helpless right after birth. Humans, for example, need somebody to carry them before they were finally able to totter and, eventually, walk. While this is a common knowledge, there are other species that almost immediately fend for themselves (i.e. baby wildebeest). Enter these newborn piglets.
Fresh as it would be in our plates (okay, dark), newborn piglets actually need just 8 hours to trottle confidently. However, this isn't because they were "born" for this ability. This means that walking isn't entirely innate to these animals.
Chris Van Ginneken of the University of Antwerp in Belgium had this experiment which involves happily seeing these baby pigs over their first four days of living. With their video analysis, they were able to calculate the piglets' speed and stride length. Results showed that the piglets already had a great limb coordination since birth, however, they weren't really confident walkers. It was only after their 8th birth hour (lol) that they had smoothed out their movements and walked like Beyonce.
“At first we were a bit puzzled by the different time points by which some variables stabilised,” says Van Ginneken. But it's logical how a piglet needs to have its basic motor skills in place before it can fine-tune them, she says.
This suggests that while piglets have a “completely innate” footfall pattern, other elements of walking were largely learned and were developed extraordinarily quickly very soon after birth
“The work nicely shows that the coordination of locomotor movement patterns in piglets is not entirely innate, but undergoes a rapid neuromotor maturation,” says Francesco Lacquaniti at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy.
“The difference is the time frame in which this learning to walk is established,” Van Ginneken says. “In humans it is clearly longer."
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