Maternal Wonders: 40 Intriguing Facts about the World of Animal Mothers

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1Quokka Mother's Survival Instinct

Quokka Mother's Survival Instinct

Quokkas have a really crazy and peculiar survival instinct which is triggered when a mother is threatened by a predator. She will throw her baby at the predator, which will hiss at the predator while the mother makes her escape.

2. Tasmanian Devils can bear up to 50 babies at once, but since they only have four nipples, the first four babies to successfully make it from the birth canal into the pouch stand a chance of surviving. The rest die and are eaten by the mother.

3. Baby horses are born with “feathers”, a.k.a. fairy fingers or golden slippers (real name eponychium). They protect the mother's uterus during gestation and later the birth canal during parturition from damage from the otherwise sharp and dangerous hoof kicks. They harden and fall off very soon after birth.

4. Female orangutans can only give birth once every 9 years. Though it is one of the slowest rates of birth observed among mammals, which hinders their survival, it also creates one of the strongest mother-child bonds seen in nature as little orangutans stay close to their mother during that whole period and nurse for most of it.

5. Female black bears delay the implantation of their fertilized eggs for months, effectively timing when they will give birth, and aborting the pregnancy if they are not healthy enough to rear cubs.

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6False Pregnancy in Dogs

False Pregnancy in Dogs

Female dogs can have a False Pregnancy that mimics the symptoms of a real pregnancy, including producing breast milk.

7. Puppies that are separated from their mother before the age of 12 weeks have been observed to experience more behavioral problems and are generally less healthy than puppies that are separated from their mothers at the age of 3 months. Removing a puppy early doesn't improve its ability to bond with humans.

8. When a female warthog suckles a new litter, each piglet has its own teat, suckling exclusively from it. Even if a piglet dies, others piglets do not suckle from the available teat.

9. The African elephant has the longest gestational period out of all mammals, with an average pregnancy lasting almost 2 years.

10. During her 8 years of stay at an animal shelter in United Kingdom, a dog named Jasmine was a 'surrogate mother' to over 50 rescued animals; including puppies, foxes, 4 badger cubs, 15 chicks, 8 guinea pigs, 15 rabbits, a deer, and a goose. She nursed each with affection, taking care of them as soon as they arrived.

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11Alligator Mother's Egg Care

Alligator Mother's Egg Care

The sex of alligator hatchlings is based purely on temperature while incubating. At 86F or lower, the babies will all be female; at 93F or higher, they will all be male. The mother can sense these temperature changes and will alter the nest to maintain an optimum temperature.

12. A female Giant Pacific Octopus can lay 50,000 eggs. She then quits eating and spends the next six months slowly dying as she tends to and protects them. On average, only 2 out of the 50,000 baby octopuses survive.

13. Matriphagy has been observed in Australian spider species Diaea Ergandro. The mother allows her babies to suckle blood from her leg joints until she has weakened and (usually) dies. This prevents early cannibalism between the spiderlings and thus resulting in more of the clutch surviving.

14. If a camel rejects her newborn or there's a need to adopt an orphaned calf, Mongol herders use a chanting ritual accompanied by a fiddle or flute to coax her into accepting the calf. The camel mother may act aggressively initially, so the herders will change the melody depending on her behavior.

15. Sloth babies usually survive if they lose their grip on their mom and fall to the ground. Sometimes however the mother sloths don’t descend to the ground to pick the baby up as she’d risk being seen by predators.

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16Super Weaners

Super Weaners

Elephant seals have an abrupt weaning process. Their pups however are super weaners who, in an attempt to slow their weaning, will steal milk from nursing female elephant seals, or be adopted by another nursing mother elephant seal ("double mother-sucklers"). Super weaners are usually male and they sometimes weigh as much as 600 lbs.

17. Adactylidium is a type of mite which is known for its unusual life cycle. The pregnant female grows 5-8 females and 1 male inside her body. The male then impregnates the females while still in the mother. The females then eat their way out of their mother, and the male dies shortly after. Four days later, their daughters do the same to them.

18. A group of mongoose mothers will all give birth on the same night, as doing so in a large enough group protects their offspring from predators.

19. Postpartum depression in dogs can take place straight after a dog gives birth and may stay with them for a long time without treatment.

20. In 2011, a baby penguin was born without feathers in a Chinese zoo and was thus rejected by his parents. Its zookeepers however found out he had digestion problems, so they fed him by hand until he grew feathers and was then reunited with his parents.

21Eel Lifecycle Mystery

Eel Lifecycle Mystery

Biologists are still yet to confirm how baby eels are made. Much of their lifecycle remains a mystery. The general consensus is that adult eels migrate to the Sargasso Sea to spawn offspring, but only single adult eels have ever been observed in open waters. Nobody has seen two eels mate.

22. In 2017, scientists made a lifelike animatronic baby langur monkey with cameras to observe real monkeys in the wild. When it was knocked down and stopped working, female monkeys grieved over the "dead" child.

23. A cow can be tricked into nursing a calf not her own by skinning her dead baby and putting the skin on another calf. The practice is called "grafting".

24. When a female blue whale gives birth to its calf, it can weigh up to 3 tons and stretch up to 25 feet, which already makes it as one of the largest creatures on earth. It can grow an impressive 200 pounds a day during its first year of life.

25. Infanticide has been observed in dolphins, where a male dolphin will attempt to kill a newly born calf to free its mother for mating.

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