Your mother has undoubtedly gone through a lot to raise you, but a few moms in the animal kingdom make sacrifices for their children that rival even the most dedicated human parent.
This Mother’s Day, here are a few moms in nature that set an impressive example in guiding their kids through life’s early stages.
A new parent is bound to lose some shut-eye during their child’s first few years, but orca mothers probably have it worst of all, having to go the first month or two after birth completely devoid of sleep.
Our own moms undergo a lot, but it’s hard to outdo the orca mother’s feat of raising a kid while simultaneously staying awake for a month and swimming the open ocean. Orcas have a 17-month gestation period, and when their calves finally emerge, it will be nursed by its mother for as long as two years.
Mom takes such good care of her children, they often don’t want to move out, with killer whales sometimes living with Mom into their 30s.
The leathery lizard may not seem like a particularly huggable mother, but they are in fact among the most dedicated parents out there. A mother gator will construct a nest of rotting vegetation, which produces enough heat to keep her eggs warm while she hunts and keeps and eye out for predators.
Once the eggs hatch, which the mother will sometimes assist with, Mom carries them around in her jaw for protection and helps them learn to swim and hunt prey. Gator hatchlings can be eaten by predators such as raccoons, but few will take their chances when Mom is nearby.
Elephants are among the most dedicated mothers from the get-go, having to deal with a 22-month gestation and squeeze out a newborn that can weigh up to 250 pounds.
After birth, a baby elephant is blind and wholly dependent on its mother and the herd, with female pachyderms in the herd even stepping in as babysitters, known as “allmothers.” These female elephants allow mothers to concentrate more on feeding and developing milk for their newborn.
It’s no surprise that our distant relative, the ape can, be an attentive mother, but the oranguatan stands out among all our furry cousins as the ultimate helicopter parent.
Nothing is nearly good enough for an orangutan mom, who constructs a new nest every night for her young, building more than 30,000 nests in a lifetime. She’ll also nurse offspring until up to 7 years old, the longest dependency of any other animal.
Researchers have noticed that while boys break away from their mothers early, females will often stick around to learn child-rearing skills.
It’s probably hard to get Mom’s attention as a young octopus, since the invertebrates can lay around 50,000 eggs. But that’s not to say the female octopus doesn’t love her multitude of children.
Mom will guard her clutch for around 40 days, fending off predators and gently blowing water over the nest to provide fresh oxygen. But remaining stationary leaves her without food, so what’s an expectant octopus to do? Well, in this case, it’s not uncommon to see Mom break off one of her own arms and eat it in order to sustain herself. Oh well, she still has seven left.
Mothers all have to undergo weight gain during the pregnancy, but a female polar bear must double her weight to support her unborn in the harsh Arctic. Father polar bears are completely absent from a cub’s life, leaving the mother alone in the task of digging a comfortable snow den to give birth to and provide an early home for her cub.
Human mothers will be undoubtedly envious that the polar bear has a labor so relaxing, it actually sleeps through it. Once she awakes though, she’ll stay by her cub’s side for two years before separating – quite a while in the animal kingdom.
Cheetahs are the ultimate single moms, able to raise their cubs without the help of a father figure. After birth, they move their young cubs constantly, relocating them every four days to make it difficult for predators to track their location.
They seem to have a complex communication system with their cubs, using a series of chirps, bleats, and purrs to keep them in line. She’ll then train the cubs on survival for 18 months, even bringing young antelope to the cubs to practice hunting. When the cubs are ready, they’ll strike out on their own, although the siblings will often stay together for six months.
Father emperor penguins get a lot of credit for caring for the eggs holding their young, and rightfully so, but mom also brings more than her fair share of work for bringing up baby. While the male keeps the egg warm, Mom travels up to 50 miles to the ocean to gorge on fish, then returns to regurgitate the food to the newly hatched chicks. She then picks up where Dad left off, keeping the chicks warm in her brood pouch as they grow.
Your mom may have not had to suffer a 22-month gestation like an elephant or eat her own arm like an octopus, but you better believe she still worked her tail off to help you grow up. Full-grown animals aren’t likely to thank their mothers for their efforts, but you certainly can, so don’t forget to give the first woman in your life a call today to show your appreciation.