Marije Oostindjer

ScienceShot: A Pig's Mom Knows Best

Pigs may have a reputation for scarfing down everything in sight, but piglets are reluctant to eat solid foods when they're being weaned, to the point where they can lose weight and get sick. In a new study published tomorrow in Biology Letters, researchers tried a couple of tricks to get the piglets to eat new foods. First, they reared some of the animals in an environment full of unfamiliar objects—such as wood shavings, straw, and branches—hypothesizing that exposure to new things might prompt the porkers to eat novel foods. And indeed, 89% of piglets who were raised there ate a new snack—chocolate-covered peanuts—versus only 77% of piglets who grew up in more barren surroundings. Having mom around helped even more: When the researchers added the piglets' mothers to the equation, 94% of the babies ate the peanuts, regardless of which environment they had been raised in. The piglets appear to follow mom's lead, say the researchers, trusting in her wisdom.

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