Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nine Terrific Animal Mothers

Well, as you all know, Mother's Day is almost here; the day we dedicate to the special women in our lives who gave us life! That's not the only great news I have to share: I've finished Animal Face-Off: Brown Bear vs. Siberian Tiger! But before you view that, let's take a look at our “usuals” and the topic of the week.

Days Till
It is: 3 days till Mother's Day
It is: 36 days till Father's Day
It is: 57 days till Independence Day

In the Spotlight
As you probably already know, there's loads of new things we're learning about the upcoming film, Jurassic World. Two new cast members have just been revealed: Andy Buckley and Brian Tee:

Brian Tee will probably portray an animal ranger in Jurassic World.

Andy Buckley (left) has a part in Jurassic World.
We don't know what Buckley will be doing in the film, but we know that Tee will be portraying Hamada! Many of you might remember Hamada from the leaked pages from the film's script that we learned about a little while ago. From what we know, Hamada will probably be portraying the new theme park's ranger and possibly dinosaur wrangler. In the leaked script pages, he tells Mr. Sourian and Beth why they don't want to feed an, as of yet, unknown dinosaur, live prey and a story of a pet snake he once had. He said that the snake was fine eating dead mice until the day he fed it a live one. The snake never ate dead mice again. Hamada explains that they really don't want the mystery creature to eat live prey . . . sounds like a very exciting dinosaur!

Now it's time for the moment you've all been waiting for: the next episode of my Animal Face-Off series! To see it, just press this link.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Mother's Day is approaching – the day we all use to celebrate what our mothers have done for us. We give flowers, cards and candy to our mothers to show them our thanks. But human mothers aren't the only mothers who deserve a little praise for their hard work. Just check out mothers in the animal kingdom and you'll see what I mean! Sometimes, what lengths animal mothers go to for their children makes what human mothers do look easy (not that I'm saying a human mother's work isn't hard; I fully appreciate what my Mom does for me!). So let's dive right into my list of animal moms!

Mother bears have a reputation for fiercely protective of their young.
With the exception of when love is in the air, bears only live together when it's a mother and her cubs. While many human mothers want to see their children the moment they are born, bear cubs are born in the middle of winter, while the bear is in hibernation. The number of cubs born is normally between one to three and they are born hairless, blind and toothless. As with any newborn, newborn bear cubs are starving upon being born, but their mother doesn't even wake up, even to feed them! Another interesting thing you might want to know is that she also doesn't wake up to feed herself or get herself a drink to even produce milk for her babies. So how on earth do the young cubs survive? Well, God had it all planned out – He created the mother bear to be able to produce milk by recycling the fluids already in her body that would normally exit the body as urine. Yes, it sounds disgusting to us, but isn't God amazing that He even takes care of little details like that. If He cares this much for bear cubs, how much more can He care for us! Finally, when spring approaches, the mother bear and her cubs – which will continue to drink their mothers milk for most of their time spent in their mother's care – leave the den. As any wildlife-lover knows, you do not want to get between a mother bear and her cubs! Despite popular belief, bears won't normally go after a human unless provoked, but this all changes if you mess with a mother's cubs! Mother bears will attack literally anything that bothers her cubs with great ferocity, even larger male bears that want to kill the cubs so that she'll come into season again. Surprisingly, mother bears are quite successful at this. The bear cubs stay with their mother for another three years until the mother comes into heat again; this is when she drives her young away.

Mother kangaroos carry their offspring in their pouches to keep them safe and carry them around with ease.
Out of all the animals in this list, the baby kangaroo (among other marsupials) must have one of the weirdest births! Unlike most mammals, the mother kangaroo doesn't have to worry about pushing a large baby out of her body because it's born prematurely. Before the joey is born, the kangaroo mother licks a “path” through her fur from the birth canal to her pouch. Then out comes the joey – when born, it is blind, hairless, lacks back legs and doesn't look much like its mother at all! In fact, it's only about the size of a jellybean! No more than a few seconds old, the baby kangaroo begins its first challenge in life, reaching the pouch. It uses its strong forelegs to haul itself through the “pathway” in the mother's fur until it reaches the cozy and warm pouch – all within three to five minutes. Isn't it amazing that God designed the joey to know where to go and how to get to the pouch the second it is born? Once in the pouch, the baby kangaroo attaches its mouth to one of its mother's four teats. 190 days later, the joey has developed its fur and sight and begins making its first adventures out of its mom's pouch. A bizarre fact about the mother kangaroo is that from the moment her baby is born, she can get mate again. However, she can postpone her pregnancy until her young one is out of the pouch.

Baby kangaroos look nothing like their mothers when born!

A mother koala carries her baby around until it's fully weaned.
Incorrectly called the koala bear, this mammal is a marsupial, like the kangaroo. Koala mothers give birth between October and May and the gestation period lasts around 33-35 days. She will normally give birth to one joey (yes, baby koalas are called joeys too), but twins are not unknown. Much like the kangaroo, the joey of the koala also has to crawl into its mother's pouch after being born. A major difference from most marsupials is that a koala's pouch faces backwards. Finally, after about 26 weeks, the baby koala can poke its head out of its mother's pouch and is covered in fur, just like mom. As many know, koalas mainly eat the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, but did you know that eucalyptus leaves are poisonous? To cope with this, koalas possess special bacteria in their guts so that the poison doesn't harm them. Unfortunately, koala joeys don't have this, but God provided a remedy: the mother koala gives her joey baby food . . . from her rear end. In other words, she feeds her baby her own dung. The dung is rich in the bacteria that protects the koala from the poison in their food and is eaten for about a month while the baby switches from drinking milk to eating leaves. By nine months, the joey leaves the pouch forever and begins clinging onto its mother's back. This continues until the baby is fully weaned and begins spending less and less time with its mother.

The mother octopus doesn't leave her eggs unguarded for any reason, not even to eat.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre creatures in today's animal mom list, the octopus nonetheless fits the title of “Aquatic Mother of the Year”. How could this eight-armed, boneless creature be a good mother? Well, after mating, the pregnant octopus will swim into a hole in the seafloor and lay as many as 200,000 eggs at a time (depending on the species)! That in and of itself is an amazing feat for any mother – you can bet that the octopus is glad her eggs are really small. But what comes next is even more extraordinary – unlike most invertebrates which lay their eggs and move on, the mother octopus stays by them. She will ward off enemies and gently blow water over the eggs to keep them clean. This behavior continues for about four long months. The mother never leaves her post during this period, not even to eat. In fact, in order to avoid starving, she'll eat her own arms in order to stay alive. At long last, it is finally time for the young to hatch. As they escape their eggs, the mother octopus drags (yes, drags) herself away from the den to avoid attracting predators to her young. Despite her strength pretty much depleted, she manages to get far enough away to give her young a better chance of survival and she dies. This is why octopus often don't live past the age of four (males normally die a few months after mating). All that work and she doesn't even get to celebrate Mother's Day!

Orangutan mothers spend several years taking care of their offspring . . . a long time compared to most animals.
Orangutan mothers can be great parents toward their young. They are able to have their first children when they're between 14 and 15 years of age. Their gestation period lasts the same lengths as humans: nine months. After mating, orangutan males play no part in the child-rearing process, leaving most of the responsibility on the female. When the baby is born, it will cling tightly to its mother's stomach for the first four months of their lives, never leaving physical contact with its mom; however the young one will remain almost utterly dependent on its mother for two years. They will even share the same nest every night. After reaching the age of two, the young orangutan begins to learn how to climb through the trees like his mother; sometimes the two will hold hands while climbing together. Orangutan babies are weaned off of their mother's milk when around four years old and are generally pretty independent after they turn five.

Unlike most reptiles, alligators not only protect their nests, but the young after they hatch as well.
Unlike most reptiles, alligator mom's take good care of their young. First, she'll build a large mound of vegetation, leaves, sticks and mud in a relatively safe spot, not too far from the water. Then, she'll lay 20-50 goose-sized eggs in the nest before covering it up with more vegetation. She won't sit on her nest like a bird, but instead the nest acts like a natural incubator – the vegetation the nest is made of rots, and as it does, it releases heat and keeps the eggs snug and warm. Did you know that the baby alligator's gender is decided based on their temperature? That's right! If the eggs are kept at around 93 degrees Fahrenheit or more, they will be male, but if they are kept at 86 degrees Fahrenheit or lower will all be females. This is why the mother alligator does her best to keep the nest between the two extremes. For the next three months, the alligator mom will fiercely guard her nest to see that no intruders come anywhere close to it. Unlike the mother king cobra, the mother alligator's duty is not finished when the eggs are about to hatch, they're only just beginning! The hatchlings produce squeaking sounds as they hatch and this makes the mother start to uncover the nest of eggs. Then, she'll gently take her babies into her mouth and place them into the water. The mother alligator will continue to protect her babies as they learn to hunt for food for as long as three years.

Stegodyphus spiders
The mother Stegodyphus spider makes an ultimate sacrifice for her young.
Stegodyphus spiders are perhaps one of the most giving animal mothers of all. They give all that they have for the survival of their infants . . . literally. When it comes time to lay their eggs, they make a cocoon of silk and lay hundreds of eggs inside before sealing it up. Then, the mother begins her long duty of watching over her previous young ones. While most spiders show no parental care toward their young, Stegodyphus spiders not only continue to watch them, they feed them as well. She feeds her spiderlings with a nutrient-rich soup-like liquid that she regurgitates from her previous meals. Most baby spiders would soon leave the web, but not these spiders. When the spiderlings reach about a month old, the mother spider will lay on her back and allow her children to clamber onto her body. But this doesn't mean it's story-time! No, it's actually mealtime – the baby spiders bite their own mother and inject venom and digestive enzymes into her body to kill her. Then the kids consume her and the previously family-friendly nest becomes a food-fest as the young spiders attempt to eat the weaker siblings before finally leaving the web.

Sea Louse
Sea lice can have hundreds of babies at a time!
Now it's time for probably one of the most gruesome motherhood stories in the animal world. You know those annoying sea lice that get under your skin and make you itch like crazy after swimming in the ocean (especially in the summer!). Well, when it comes time to mate, some species of male sea lice search for and drag female members of their own species into their dens, sometimes as many as 25 females! However, the story gets worse than that when it comes time to give birth. The mother sea lice's hundreds of babies begin to grow quickly inside her body. However, she doesn't ever intend on laying eggs. Unlike what happens to the spiders we've already learned about, the mother louse doesn't get the chance to feed her young ones regurgitated liquid. Instead, the baby sea lice will begin to eat their way out of their mother's body before she literally bursts open and the babies are free. As you might imagine, the mother sea louse doesn't even get to celebrate her first Mother's Day.

Mother elephants take great care to raise their calves.
After those two rather gruesome tales of motherhood, I figured we'd end this post with a more positive mother's story from the animal kingdom. Now it might seem rather appropriate to talk about elephant mothers since it wasn't too long ago I wrote an article about elephant reproduction habits for Valentine's Day. As we all know, after the romance, there's the pitter-patter of tiny paws . . . or whatever you'd call elephant feet! The mother elephant is very dedicated when it comes to motherhood! First of all, she carries her baby in her womb for the longest amount of time of any creature on the planet – 22 months – that's almost two years! (And human mothers think nine months is long!) As you can imagine, the mother elephant is probably more than ready to give birth when the time comes! The elephant calf exits its mother at around 33 inches in height and about 260 pounds in weight! That's a big baby! It's a good thing that elephant twins are rare, because that's a lot of weight for a mother to carry. Unlike most mammals, the whole herd helps take care of the baby elephants. Just like with humans, the birth of an elephant causes much excitement in a herd. Other herd members will caress and touch the baby with their sensitive trunks. When first born, the elephant calf's eyesight is quite poor and is an unsteady walker, so its mother and other members of the herd give it assistance. Elephants continue to suckle their calves for three years. The elephant could be called one of the most committed mothers on earth because not only is the gestation period long, but so is the time the elephant calf spends with its mother until it's about 12 years old!

Well, I hope you enjoyed learning about all the amazing animal moms out there, and how they'll do anything to insure the life of their offspring (even if that means dying in the process). Now for you offspring of wonderful mothers, spend this Mother's Day with your mom to let them know you appreciate them and most of all, be sure to thank God for giving you such a great mom to raise, care for and love you, because there's not much else better than that. To all our mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day!

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