Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers Day!

Amazing behaviors of mothers in natural world

We know human mothers are amazing—we certainly wouldn’t be here without ‘em!  But on this Mother’s Day, we thought it appropriate to take a look at some of the amazing mothers in the natural world, who also demonstrate the qualities of courage, sacrifice, grace and compassion.  These come courtesy of Professor Derk Henson of the Norwegian Biological Gymnasium.

If there are predators about, especially the lynx or the lion, the West African spotted varmule, a rodent, keeps her newborn hidden in her own mouth for several weeks after birth, then swallows it whole, defecating her baby out 12 to 24 hours later.  She then licks the baby clean and begins teaching it the varmule alphabet and traditional varmule songs and dances.

The Indonesian house fly species raidontous zappruscus plants hundreds of eggs in the venom gland of the poisonous snake pythonus indondonesus.  When the python attacks a mole or small rabbit, the luckiest of the eggs are sprayed with the venom into the doomed prey’s flesh.  After they hatch they are reunited with their mother in the rotting flesh of that small dead animal, which serves as their home for several days until they are sufficiently grown to be able to fly.  The unluckier of the eggs remain in the venom gland of the snake where they undergo weeks of hallucinations and become resentful and angry at their mother.  They often go on to become failed playwrights or bad painters later in life.

The sea turtles found in the South Pacific island of Nomnow give birth to thousands of eggs once a year on a beach of a cove frequented by tiger sharks.  In order to distract the tiger sharks from the delicious feast of baby turtles making their first mad dash into the ocean, the mother turtle will disguise herself as a female shark, using real shark teeth she gathers from the beach, and using a piece of plastic that washed up as a fake dorsal fin.  In order to paint on the distinctive black stripes of the tiger shark, the mother turtle employs a black tar that emanates from an extremely volatile tar pit that is caused by the volcanic activity beneath the island of Nomnow.  Some mother turtles fall into this tar pit and are roasted alive.  But the successful ones manage to paint quite convincing stripes on their shells.  With the disguise intact, the mother turtle floats out to the cove and pretends to be a female shark in heat. If she is successful in her ruse the mother turtle will get brutally ravished by several sharks, while her babies swim to safety.  If she is unsuccessful and the sharks realize she is not a shark but in fact a nice big juicy turtle, they will eat her instead.   Either way her kids survive and go out into the big wide world unaware of her sacrifice, where they will attribute all their victories in life to themselves and themselves alone, because they think they are all that.

The mother hippo gives birth to one or two baby hippos each averaging two or three hundred pounds.  In order to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight the post partum female will often spend weeks exercising, swimming or  doing yoga.   But by the time she begins nearing her goal she inevitably becomes pregnant again because male hippos are extremely unpleasant and thoughtless.  “And anyhow,” the male will ask in a mocking tone, “Why are you trying to get thin—you are a hippopotamus not a fashion model.”  As you can imagine, this doesn’t really help and hippo marriages are filled with long periods of silence and acrimony.  Nevertheless, because they are mothers, the female hippos go through this cycle of pregnancy, weight gain, weight loss, pregnancy again and again until they die from exhaustion.  Once a year though, the thoughtless unpleasant hippo males give them a special day.  On this day the father hippos bring flowers or some straw from the riverbank and act kind and caring for approximately 24 hours, for which the mothers are meant to be really grateful.  Then the next day the males become thoughtless and unpleasant again and the cycle continues.

Thank you, Professor Henson.  And happy Mother’s Day to all other mothers, hippo, human and otherwise.  You deserve more. We are grateful.  We don’t show it enough but we are.  Mothers of all species are the bravest and the best.  God bless you all!

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