The Chemistry of Filial Imprinting


Filial Imprinting is when precocial infants form an attachment to the mother, or object, and does not leave her side. It is a very interesting subject to learn about because there still is a lot of speculation of where and how this occurs in these precocial infants. Being able to understand how filial imprinting occurs can explain how the body works and the psychological effect it has on these animals. Filial imprinting help creates the foundation for later learning in life for these animals, the foundation that is needed to survive in the wild.

Composition of ...Thyroxine- C15H11I4NO4

Dio2- Gene that starts the production of the thyroid hormone. This hormone produced stats the beginning process of learning of filial imprinting

Triiodothyronine- C15H12I3NO4

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The two main components used in filial imprinting is thyroxine, also known as T4, and triiodothyronine, T3, T4 is a hormone from the thyroid gland that increases metabolic rates. So this hormone is used to regulate growth and development. When T4 goes through the Dio2, it then becomes T3. All of this happens in the brain vascular endothelial cells that lines the whole circulatory system. Overall this is an enzyme that is specifically a prohormone ready to be “switched on” by a modification. The other main component of filial imprinting is T3. Triiodothyronine starts the beginning process of the imprinting and learning period. In the precocial infants, T3 is being rapidly produced in the brain vascular endothelial cells. This whole entire process is crucial to later learning for the infants.

Chemistry's Role

Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine is created by the thyroid gland that is in the throat. The two chemicals used to create T3 and T4 is tyrosine and iodine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that is created in the body and iodine is a naturally occurring chemical element. The thyroid starts producing tyrosine. Thyrotropin, a hormone, is released and produced by the hypothalamus. In the hypothalamus, iodine is captured by a hydrogen peroxide trap by the thyroid peroxidase and adds to the 3’ and 5’ positions of tyrosine. After multiple times of the procedure, it creates either Thyroxine or Triiodothyronine

Background Research

In psychology and ethology, imprinting is any kind of phase-sensitive learning that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behavior. It is hypothesized to have a critical period and is most obvious in nidifugous birds. Nidifugous is either a young bird or animal that is hatched. These animals are in an advanced stage when born and can immediately feed itself.


    • The object that is imprinted on has the ability to make the newborns stimulate endogenous opioid (endorphin) production in the brain.
    • German word Praegung is the german word for imprinting dubbed by Konrad Lorenz

    • Filial imprinting is restricted to the first few days after hatching.
    • Thyroid hormone starts the sensitive period
    • The hormone also has an important role in later learning
    • This specific type of imprinting consists of auditory and visual stimuli
    • The shape of the synapses is modified by imprinting in the Hyperstriatum ventrale

    • Precocial infant forms an attachment to the mother and doesn’t leave her side
    • What the precocial infant imprints on can affect the later behaviour and its sexual preferences.
    • Imprinting deals with the meason of characteristics of an entire species

    • Filial imprinting can happen with inanimate objects
    • Before imprinting, the duck, for an example, must recognize different stimuli
    • Sexual and filial imprinting happen simultaneously (with greylag geese but there is clear interval between the two types of imprinting)
    • Imprinting in mammals is rare

    • Filial imprinting is when a young animal acquires several of its behavioral characteristics from its parent.

    • For imprinting to happen, activity must be allowed to take in the hyperstriatum ventrale.
    • If the hyperstriatum ventrale is taken out, then the bird can not imprint. Imprinting serves as a survival instinct

About the Author

Brooklyn Bower is a junior at Billings Senior High School. She enjoys learning about how psychology and chemistry play a big part in how many species interact in the world. She is interested in astrophysics and the many things that are still a mystery in the world. She is currently in STEM society at Senior High and she wished to work in a STEM career.