In honor of Mothers’ Day yesterday, I wanted to pay tribute to moms of all kinds with some amazing examples of great mothers in the wild.
I know my own mother is very caring, loving and helpful. It’s pretty awesome that a lot of mothers in the animal kingdom share similar traits.
Mother orangutans, for example, are very patient. The moms care for their young for a long time, generally nursing their offspring until they are about 6 or 7 years old, which is the longest dependency of any baby animal on earth.
With most species, if a mother dies, the babies are left to fend for themselves. This isn’t the case with orangutans: If a mother orangutan dies another female will often step in and raise the babies.
As many people know, koalas are herbivores who dine exclusively on eucalyptus plants. You may not know that eucalyptus plants are actually highly poisonous. Because of this, koalas have special bacteria in their stomachs to breakdown the eucalyptus so it won’t hurt them.
However, baby koalas — known as Joeys — are not born with this bacteria, so it is up to the mother to pass on the bacteria to the baby koala by feeding the baby “pap,” also known as her excrement. Without this contribution from mom, the baby koala would not be able to digest eucalyptus and wouldn’t have anything to eat.
Another excellent animal mother is the elephant. Elephant babies are the biggest babies on land — they average about 200 pounds at birth.
Elephants also have one of the longest gestation periods: Their pregnancies last 22 months. After a baby elephant is born, it’s not only the mother who takes care of the baby, it’s all of the female members of the family, including sisters, aunts and cousins.
Dolphin moms are very attentive. As soon as the baby is born, the mother pushes the baby to the surface to it can take it’s first breath. After that, the mother will synchronize her breathing with the baby so it can get used to surfacing for air.
Like elephants, dolphin moms have been seen taking care of each other's young.
Alligator moms are really smart. Instead of having to sit on their eggs all the time for warmth like birds do, alligator moms lay their eggs under rotting vegetation.
While the vegetation rots, it produces heat that warms the eggs. What’s really interesting about this is that the gender of the babies depends on the temperature of the eggs.
If the eggs are cold or extremely hot they tend to produce females, while more mild temperatures result in male offspring.
Scientists believe temperature affects the gender for all crocodilian species.
Polar bears have it all figured out when it comes to child bearing (No pun intended). Before they go into labor, mother polar bears will dig a maternity den and hibernate for about two months.
The polar bear mom will actually continue to live in the den with the baby for about three months after it’s born. Polar bear cubs are born blind and defenseless so they need that time in the den with their mother to get bigger so they can handle the ice and snow that awaits them.
Octopus mothers are very dedicated. The mother lays about 200,000 eggs, though this number varies with each species.
After laying the eggs the mother keeps watch over them constantly, not even taking a break to eat. The mother guards the eggs from predators and gently blows currents of water over the eggs so that they receive enough oxygen.
Most of the animal moms I’ve named so far have been pretty big, but even small animals can make a big difference and be great moms.
The strawberry poison arrow frog lays her eggs on the rainforest floor. She then carries the eggs one by one up to the safety of the trees and drops them off in pools that have collected in plants.
The mother frog even brings the baby frogs food until they are big enough to climb out of the pool.
There are many wonderful animal mothers that can be found in many different shapes, sizes and places. From the oceans to the treetops, from small amphibians to large, land-dwelling mammals, there are very caring and interesting moms.
Happy belated Mothers’ Day everyone!