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Ever Wondered What Animals Feel when their Offspring Come Home?


The holidays are a time when many people flock to airports and train stations, where many families see their children and relatives come home for the annual holiday break. These times are all about a range of emotions, from happiness and relief to seeing loved ones again, pride in seeing loved ones venture out into the world, nostalgia of old times, and sadness following the brief month-long reprieve.
But have you ever wondered what it’s like when animals come home to their families? We already know that animals feel emotions. In primates, a wide range of emotions not unlike our own has been observed, including sadness, joy, anger, and loneliness.

We also know that in wild animal societies, animals tend to go from the birth group at the age of puberty and move to another family to live and mate. This allows for a frequent exchange of healthy animals between groups, resulting in a robust gene pool. Chimpanzee daughters leave their families to be part of another group, while in monkeys like macaques, it’s the males who leave.

Animal behavior expert Richard Byrne believes that given our close genetic ties to other apes and monkeys, and supposing that our emotion systems have remained largely the same throughout the millennia, it’s very unlikely that ape mothers don’t feel some sadness when their offspring leave the group.

However, during his first fieldwork experience with chimpanzees, he had the chance to see two communities joining, with ‘group B’ having females that had originally come from ‘group A.’ Byrne noticed that the daughters who emigrated showed no recognition of their mothers, nor did their mothers recognize them.

More about this fascinating story at Slate.

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