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Animal behavior and offspring success

Reproductive success in animals is tied to the number of offspring that survive. Traits and behaviors that increase chances of reproduction and offspring survival, like mating displays and parental care, boost this success. Examples include peacock's flashy feathers and protective behaviors of penguins and bears. Created by Sal Khan.

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Video transcript

- Let's talk a little bit about reproductive success, which is related to the number of surviving offspring that an animal has during its lifetime. An animal that has more surviving offspring has a higher reproductive success. Now, there's two broad categories of traits or behaviors that might drive reproductive success. One might be behaviors that increase the chances of an animal producing offspring. And we know that most animals that we study, not all, but most, reproduce via sexual reproduction. To do that, they need to mate with an individual of the opposite sex. And that's why you see things like peacocks, where these very elaborate feathers are a way of signaling to members of the opposite sex, the peahens, that this peacock here has favorable traits, is attractive to the peahen, has good health, which signals to the peahen that by reproducing with this peacock, they're more likely to have reproductive success. They'll have healthier offspring, which are more likely to survive, which are more likely to then go on and reproduce. And then assuming that animals are able to mate and able to reproduce, another behavior that you will see amongst animals that will increase the chances that their offspring will survive, and then be able to reproduce themselves is parental care, or behaviors that protect offspring from predators. You see that throughout the animal kingdom. Here are some emperor penguins taking care of their young baby penguin. Here is a mother grizzly bear taking care of her bears. And here the parental care might be helping them find food, giving them food, training them, protecting them from other predators or from competitors in some way. And this isn't just amongst bears, and penguins, and potentially peacocks and peahens. It's all in service to, at least in some level, reproductive success.