Why can animals swim?

  1. How is that most animals, such as dogs or cats, have the basic instinct of knowing how to swim, and we don't?

    Why arn't we born with the knowledge of how to swim?
  2. jcsd
  3. In general, if there is no selective pressure to preserve something genetically, for example all those who don't know how to swim will be eaten by a predator, then that genetic information can be filtered out in time.
  4. DocToxyn

    DocToxyn 424
    Science Advisor

    There is an instinctual, albeit rudimentary, ability of humans to swim that can be observed very early in life. I used to teach young kids how to swim and the very young if submerged will close their mouth and kick in an attempt to swim. They weren't very good at it and it couldn't save their lives, but the skill was recognizable. We as a species have developed the need to acquire a large skill set in order to survive and this is best developed by learning from others. Perhaps the number and complexity of the many tasks we must learn throughout our lives has led to the need to learn these skills, rather than just perform them innately.
  5. matthyaouw

    matthyaouw 1,149
    Gold Member

    I've heard that newborns can swim instinctively. Its often used as evidence for the aquatic ape theory or our origin.
  6. I thought that was atributed to their nine month carriage period.
  7. matthyaouw

    matthyaouw 1,149
    Gold Member

    I'm not sure. I'm only what I've read in other places.
  8. LURCH

    LURCH 2,507
    Science Advisor

    Unlikely; swimming does not take place in the womb, nor is it necessary (a fetus who can't swim is in no greater danger of drowning than one who can).
  9. Maybe not swimming, but bouyancy?
  10. Phobos

    Phobos 1,982
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think animals, including humans, have a survival instinct. Therefore, toss a land animal into the water and it will try to keep its head above water and propel itself back to shore. Its success will depend on its buoyancy, anatomy, etc. An adult human will try this too (provided he/she doesn't completely panic) and "dog paddle" back to shore. The thing about babies is that they are not as fully developed as many other land animals are upon birth (a likely consequence of our emphasis on brain development). Consider how babies are largely helpless for months after birth whereas many other animals are on-the-go after a matter of hours or days. I'm not sure a newborn dog/cat could do much better (please don't try this experiment!).
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