It is well understood that unborn human babies have a great awareness of conditions outside the womb during the last several months of their development. One question that remains unanswered is how much unborn babies understand about what is going on in the outside world. Is the awareness of the outside world present in all embryos, and is there such a thing as embryonic communication?
Researchers at Spain’s University of Vigo writing in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution have an interesting report on bird embryos. While inside their eggs, they seem to perceive signals from and generate signals to the outside world. The studies involve yellow-legged gulls receiving warning signals from adult birds. Not only do the unhatched birds receive the signals, but they produce strong egg vibrations transferring the information from the adult birds to other embryos. Scientists are still studying what the unhatched birds do with this information. It may relate to when the baby birds peck their way out of the egg.
Ecologist and co-author of the study, Jose Noguera, says he is confident that this phenomenon is present in other bird species. We suggest that it is likely to be true of other forms of life. Some species have synchronous births where many young are born at the same time to reduce the efficiency of predators. Could embryonic communication control that to some extent? Are human babies aware of a pending abortion, and if so, at what stage of the pregnancy?
There are many questions involved in this field of study, and they do have relevance to today’s moral issues.
— John N. Clayton © 2020
Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2020, page 8.