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The phenomenon of imprinting

A term that repeatedly causes confusion and is often misinterpreted.


I found these five year olds sitting close together under a wooden board in a river valley in Tuscany.

Turtles are already shaped in their own way in the egg pit by their own smell. After hatching, the hatchlings stay for years in the egg-laying areas in the immediate vicinity of their egg pit and seek close contact with their siblings and later also with conspecifics.

Each turtle species and subspecies have their own smell.

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I found these two two-year-olds under a "lid" in Tuscany. Apparently the shelter in the tunnels were dug.


Taking in the weather through the air.

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Absorb weather, moisture or temperature.


Siblings on a tour of discovery.

The mating behavior requires a whole series of key stimuli in the order of shape / size - smell - mating ritual. If the smell is not right, there is no mating ritual for wild European tortoises. The outward appearance and the mating ritual are essentially innate.

It is therefore impossible for turtles living in the wild to jump on stones, sneakers or plastic turtles. They only do that in human care and only if they grew up individually.

My animals are very interested in everything new that gets into the enclosure and smell everything extensively. Turtles use their sense of smell not only to differentiate between conspecifics, but also many things, including food, temperatures, humidity ...

The subject of imprinting, the behavior of the hatchlings in the egg pit, after hatching and the migration of the young from the laying areas is described in detail in my book "European turtles, habitat and way of life" and also illustrated.


Below are two excerpts from the book by Professor Dr. Peter Kappeler, Behavioral Biology, published in 2006 by Springer-Verlag Berlin, ISBN 3-540-24056-X:

"Embossing. A particularly impressive example of how behavior and genes are coordinated during development is the phenomenon of imprinting. It is a process in which certain stimuli are sustained during a genetically determined time window, a sensitive phase , often induce irreversible behavior patterns (Immelmann 1972). Here, the organism is genetically prescribed, so to speak, when it can learn what. Imprinting was mainly investigated in birds .......... "

"  Learning processes similar to imprinting were also described in other functional contexts for other species. Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus ssp.) Are influenced by their smell on the body of water, which they return to after years in the open ocean to lay their own eggs (Dittman and Quinn 1996; Chapter 4.3). In the development of preferences of insects, birds and mammals for certain habitat types (Chapter 5.1) or food (Chapter 5.3), processes similar to imprinting are probably also involved .......... "



Here is a link to the coinage phenomenon:


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