Cute Knut is growing up

Crowds gather at the Berlin Zoo to see the polar bear cub Knut: Photo by Claudius Prosser at
Crowds gather at the Berlin Zoo to see the polar bear cub Knut: Photo by Claudius Prosser at

Poor Knut! The polar bear cub, abandoned by its mother, has been raised by zookeepers. As we reported in March, some “animal rights activists” demanded that the bear be killed, rather than be raised by humans. This led to great interest in the furry little fellow.

But all good things must come to an end. At five months of age, Knut is looking less and less like an adorable little cub, and more like a full-grown adult every day.

Animals that must fend for themselves as soon as they are born – many fish, insects, and reptiles – often hatch as fully formed, miniature versions of the adult. (Some may go through a larval stage, but development finishes early, long before the animal has reached its full adult size.) Animals that receive care from their parents, however – mammals and most birds – often look very different as children than they do as adults. Certain features are not yet fully developed. Scientists speculate that the parents are genetically programmed to respond in a caring manner to the infant appearance.

(This certainly seems to be the case with humans – just watch everybody ooh and ahh over a baby.)

In fact, the instinct is so strong that it even works across species. Newborn Knut, with his large head and small nose, reminds us of a baby’s features, and we react the same way. An adult bear, with its full snout, no longer generates this reaction. As we noted earlier, our ideas of “cuteness” can influence our feelings about nature, and which animals we are more likely to protect.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Thor's picture
Thor says:

I hope Knut is still cute in the eyes of some female polar bear in a zoo so someday down the road we can have a lot more other little Knuts!

posted on Thu, 05/03/2007 - 11:32am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Just read today that Berlin Zoo officials figure they're revenues this year will be up $3.3 million, attributing a lot of that to Knut. Attendance is way up , t-at the zoo and they've been selling Knut DVDs and stuffed toys. Looks like Knut is a pretty good businessman!

posted on Wed, 06/13/2007 - 3:42pm
Levi's picture
Levi says:

Maybe the Science Museum of Minnesota should get a polar bear that roams loose in the exhibits during June to help attendance? Seems like that could pose some problems, though.

posted on Sat, 06/16/2007 - 2:45pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Hmmm, interesting idea Levi. Alas, I think this would break the first rule of of exhibit design. "The exhibits can't hurt anyone!" And I think the headline, "Polar bear loose at the Science Museum," might scare more people away than bring them in. But I'll mention it to the folks in marketing .

posted on Sun, 06/17/2007 - 11:39am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Knut is now one year old, and, by some accounts, as cute as ever. Despite a penchant for rolling in the dirt. Unfortunately, the Berlin Zoo won't be able to keep him much longer, as he is growing too large for his enclosure. They hope to relocate him to another, larger zoo, where he can interact with other polar bears.

posted on Wed, 12/05/2007 - 11:30am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

A keeper at the Berlin Zoo is concerned that all the attention focused on Knut is going to his head. This keeper claims that constantly being surrounded by people is causing Knut to behave abnormally. He recommends that the bear be removed from public display.

posted on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 9:23am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

That's the same kind of thing that's happened to Britney Spears, isn't it?

posted on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 9:30am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Come to think of it, polar bears don't wear underpants, either. But at least Knut has never appeared on a CBS sitcom.

posted on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 10:04am

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