Interspecific Adoption

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by Harry F. Sanders, III on March 12, 2019

We expect people to be kind to one another. It’s part of having a conscience. However, when animals look out for each other, scientists start paying attention. Unselfish behavior by animals is not expected by evolution. So when animals adopt babies that are not of the same species, evolutionists have no good explanations. Yet there are dozens of examples of animals adopting the young of other species. Here are just a few examples of this, called interspecific adoption, that defy evolutionary explanation.

The most common interspecific adoptions occur in birds. Bald eagles are known to adopt chicks of red tail hawks and even some sea gulls. In one instance, an eaglet actually acted like an older sibling to a frightened seagull chick. King penguins have been documented to defend the chick of a skua, even though skuas will eat penguin chicks given the chance. This happened when the penguins were not breeding, which makes it even more surprising. There are many other examples from birds, but those two are the most unexpected.

Fish and invertebrates also adopt babies of other species. This is less common because most of these kinds of animals do not care for their young at all. However, a few species such as cichlids, do care for their young and will also care for the young of other species.

Mammals are known to adopt members of other species as well. Capuchin monkeys were observed to adopt a baby marmoset and treat it as one of their own. A pod of sperm whales adopted a sickly dolphin, letting it travel as a member of the pod. However, a lioness undoubtedly had most unexpected adoption behavior when she adopted six Arabian oryx calves over time. Though lions often eat these calves, she never harmed her calves. She even allowed one of the calves to nurse from its real mother, though her care for her adopted calves wasn’t as good as their own mother’s would have been. Sadly, none of the calves survived to adulthood.

The implications of these and other adoptions are very significant. Evolutionists do not expect adoptions within the same species, let alone across species boundaries. They attempt to explain it by saying the parents are mistaking the young for their own. This theory does not work for at least some of these examples. It is highly doubtful that a female lion could mistake an Arabian oryx calf for a lion cub, nor that penguins not in breeding season would attempt to guard a chick. Yet this is exactly what happened. The lioness also obviously knew the calf was not hers, since she allowed the calf’s real mother to feed it. Something other than mistaken identity must be going on.

Creation scientists think animal adoptions are powerful evidence of God’s original design in the universe. Genesis 1:31 tells us God made everything perfect in the beginning. That perfection would have included no death, which meant no meat-eating animals (Romans 8:20–22). The Bible confirms this in the dietary restrictions God lays down in Genesis 1:29–30. The animals would have existed in perfect harmony. Of course, this harmony was broken as part of the curse brought on by man’s sin (Genesis 3:17). In spite of the fallen world, however, there are still leftovers of this Eden-like past in the present. In fact, when Isaiah discusses what the new earth will look like, one of the things he mentions sounds like the behavior of the lioness: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Note that the lion is said to lay down with the calf. This may even imply an element of care for each other, not just the lion not eating the calf.

Evolutionists know they have a problem with animal adoptions, and they struggle to adapt to fit their firmly held ideas. Creationists have no such problem with animal adoptions. These unexplained incidences of care for young that are not theirs may simply be something like a brief return to the beginning in the Garden of Eden.