ScienceDo all animals go through adolescence?

Do all animals go through adolescence?

Looking back on our teenage years often elicits a grimace — it’s an awkward time, full of social faux pas, uncertainty and acne — but it’s one that we all must pass through on our way to adulthood. 

But do other animals also experience adolescence? This period of life comprises both physiological and social changes. Unquestionably, other animals experience puberty, the cascade of hormonal and physiological changes that enable mating. But researchers such as Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, a cardiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard University, argue that most, if not all, animals experience a period of adolescence too — what Natterson-Horowitz calls “wildhood” — that also includes the social shifts that youngsters must navigate as they transition into adulthood.

Years allocated to adolescence in the life history of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) compared with three widely studied model species: Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus) and laboratory mice (Mus musculus). (Image credit: Reddy et al. (2022))

For a long time, adolescence was thought to be unique to humans, Natterson-Horowitz told Live Science. “But the more you peel that back, the more you find that while there are certain aspects of adolescence that are uniquely human, that period of transition that starts with the onset of puberty and ends when a mature adult emerges — that’s universal.”

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