The behaviour of sexually immature animals. Like adult behaviour, this is subject to natural selection. Although some aspects of juvenile behaviour are precursors of adult behaviour, other aspects are specifically adapted to the survival of the young animal. For example the alarm responses of herring gull (Larus argentatus) chicks are quite different from those of the parents. When alarmed, the chicks move a short distance from the nest and crouch silent and motionless among the vegetation, whereas the adults fly away, uttering alarm calls.
Typical juvenile behaviour includes food begging, play and specialized behaviour such as hatching. The development of juvenile behaviour is the result of an interplay of innate behaviour and learning, especially imprinting. The emphasis given to these differing processes depends upon the habitat and lifestyle of the species. Juvenile animals occupy a niche that is both typical of the species and of the particular stage in the life cycle. Sometimes, the lifestyle of the juvenile is quite different from that of the adult, examples are the tadpoles of frogs (Anura) and the caterpillar larvae of butterflies (Lepidoptera). In other species, such as the wildebeest (Connochaetes sp.), the young animal runs with the herd within a few minutes of being born, and has a lifestyle that is almost identical to that of its parents.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.