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Amanda is an assistant editor at The Scientist, where she oversees the Scientist to Watch, Foundations, and Short Lit columns. When not editing, she produces original reporting for the magazine and website. Amanda has a master’s in marine science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and a master’s in science communication from UC Santa Cruz.
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ABOVE: © LAURIE O’KEEFE
Although scientists have long described embryos—whether ensconced in an egg or a womb—as passive agents, new research shows that they are in fact capable of sensing conditions in their external environments. By eavesdropping on the sounds of family members or sensing the quakes of an approaching predator, for example, developing young can alter their development or modify their behavior–a phenomenon known as acoustic developmental programming. In some cases, these prebirth adaptations affect lifelong fitness.
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