Sunday, May 14, 2006

Something to make you thankful for YOUR mother...

Today is Mother's Day, a holiday set aside for everyone to show their appreciation for their mothers. I happen to have a great relationship with my mom, but in case there are readers out there that struggle to get along with their own mothers, I thought it would be fun, in honor of the holiday, to highlight some of the animal world's WORST mothers. No matter what kind of mom you have, these cases show that it could be worse!

First up: rabbits. The look cute, cuddly, and loving right? Unfortunately, not so.
A pregnant rabbit will build a nest within the burrow, even using fur from her own body as bedding. When the litter is born, however, the mother leaves them, covers the hole, and visits for nursing sessions less than five minutes a day. This lasts for 25 days, after which she stops even returning to feed them, and the youngsters have to crawl out of the burrows and 'seek their fortunes' in the wide world.
That's the story Beatrix Potter didn't tell you. ;)

Next: while pandas are notoriously fickle breeders and the birth of a captive cub is widely celebrated, in the wild each infant bear is not quite as celebrated. Pandas frequently give birth to twins, but rarely raise both cubs, effectively abandoning the weaker of the two in order to focus their resources on the one more likely to survive. It makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint, but the fact that it's logical doesn't make things any less unpleasant for the discarded runt...

Third, egret mothers stand by casually as their chicks gang up on their weaker siblings and peck them to death in the nest. Sibling rivalry is apparently NOT limited to kids bickering in mini-vans...

Finally, the winners of the Bad Mothers contest: ants belonging to the genus Adetomyrma. According to Dr. Scott Forbes of the University of Winnipeg, "queens chew holes in their larvae and then consume the oozing fluid." Amazingly, these larva survive and can develop into adults, although they always bear scars from their mother's "snacking".

So there you go, feeling more appreciative of your own mother yet? ;)

If you're in the mood to see some extremely good pictures of animal mothers and babies, National Geographic has a great Mother's Day themed photo gallery posted.

(Disclaimer: this entry is meant to be light-hearted, I am fully aware that most maternal behaviors are adapted to specific life styles and the concept of "bad" animal mothers is misguided from a scientific standpoint. Just a little attempt at humor after a very long weekend.)

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