7 Extreme Animal Moms


♪ All living things reproduce—it’s literally
one of the requirements to be considered alive. And outside of bacteria, most species specifically
practice sexual reproduction, where two individuals mix genes to produce the next generation. But the contributions from both partners aren’t
equal. One partner invests way more at the beginning—the
one whose egg is fertilized—and that individual is the one scientists consider “mom.” In some species, making eggs is basically
the extent of mom’s involvement in her kids’ life. But some moms take mothering to a whole new
level. So in honor of the upcoming mother’s day in
the US, we thought we’d talk about some really amazing animal mothers. Whether they’re pregnant for years or producing
millions of offspring per month, here are seven of the planet’s most extreme moms. Number one, my mom! You’re great She was pregnant for about 9 months, but African
elephant pregnancies last an amazing 22 months. That’s right — imagine being pregnant for
almost two years! There are a couple shark species that could
give them a run for their money, but among mammals, elephants are the undisputed champions
of gestational length. As a result, their babies are born with highly
developed brains so they’re able to participate in the complex social life of the herd almost
right away. But staying pregnant for 22 months requires
some biological modifications. For a 2012 study, scientists performed ultrasounds
on pregnant elephants in zoos around the world to learn more about how they keep a pregnancy
going for so long. Female mammals get a lot of the hormones they
need to maintain a pregnancy from the corpus luteum, a little ball of cells that forms
at the former site of a released egg. And it turns out elephants have a bunch of
these clumps. In addition to the main one that forms in
the ovary where the egg was released, they produce up to a dozen “accessory” corpus
lutea every time they ovulate. This helps ensure that they’ll have plenty
of estrogen and progesterone, important hormones for pregnancy, over the long haul. And once the baby is finally born, mom gets
a lot of help. You’ve heard the saying “it takes a village.” Well, for elephants, it takes a herd. Since herds are matriarchal, all those female
relatives pitch in, taking turns babysitting and helping protect calves from predators. The Surinam toad is one really weird-looking
frog — its flat, brown body looks like a leaf floating in the water. But its reproductive strategy is even weirder
than its appearance: mom basically implants her babies in her skin for months. Things start out with pretty standard frog
sex. The males grasps the female’s back, a position
called amplexus. Egg laying is surprisingly acrobatic. The two somersault as she lays one to ten
eggs, which he catches with a fold of his belly skin and fertilizes. He then nudges them onto her back, where they
stick to her back skin. The pair repeats these egg-laying twists many
times, as the whole process of mating can take the entire day. Then, over the course of the next few days,
the mom’s skin grows up and around her eggs, eventually totally enclosing them in little
pockets. She can end up with more than a hundred eggs
embedded in her back, where they’re kept safe from predators while they develop. The young frogs even hatch in there and continue
to grow under her skin for the next three to four months. Eventually, fully formed toadlets pop out
of the skin, ready to fend for themselves. Whew! Then the mom sheds her ruined, pockmarked
skin to prepare to do it all over again. This gives a whole new meaning to the concept
of babywearing! It’s like you’ve got the wraps… you’ve got
the packs…. and then you’ve got the toadlets popping out of your skin… Hornbills are a family of birds found in the
Old World tropics. They get their name from the big horn-like
casque that some species have on top of their huge bills. But that’s not what makes them extreme moms. To keep their chicks safe from predators and
rival birds, before they lay their eggs mother hornbills seal themselves inside their nesting
cavities with their poop. Depending on the species, the female may plaster
up the opening from the inside by herself, or her mate may help from the outside. They actually swallow their own feces, dirt,
and other material and regurgitate it as pellets which they plaster into the opening with their
huge bills. A small slit is left open, which lets the
male pass food to the incubating mom, and the mom poop outward to keep the nest clean. Because, you know, you don’t want poop on
the floor. Just the wall. Months later, when the mother and growing
chicks can no longer fit comfortable in the cavity together, she finally breaks free. In most species the chicks are ready to fly
as soon as they emerge. So, parents, remember that as exhausting as
taking care of a newborn can be, it could be worse — you and the baby could be sealed
inside your house behind a wall of poop. Caecilians might look like worms, but they’re
actually amphibians, kind of like legless salamanders, that mostly live underground
in the tropics. Thanks to their subterranean habits, they’re
not very well studied. But we do know that at least four caecilian
species share a really freaky parenting strategy called maternal dermatophagy. In these species, young caecilians possess
a unique set of teeth with the wonderfully gross purpose of tearing off pieces of their
mother’s skin. The mom has a specialized, fatty, peeling
layer of skin for exactly this reason, and the babies periodically gather round and voraciously
rip off bits off to eat. The skin is so nourishing that they can weight
ten times as much just after a week. And in a month or so, they’re strong enough
to burrow out on their own. At least one of these skin-feeding species
goes a step further, as mom also provides her offspring with a clear fluid that’s
secreted from her cloaca—a sort of amphibian milk. And in some caecilian species, the babies
start eating their mother even earlier, consuming parts of her reproductive tract while still
inside her. But caecilians are so hard to observe in the
wild that skin-feeding was only confirmed in 2006, and who knows — there could be other
species out there with even weirder parenting techniques. After all, there are about 200 species of
them, most of which haven’t received such careful study. When it comes to sheer reproductive output,
no animal beats the African driver ant. These ants live in huge colonies—sometimes
consisting of more than 20 million workers. Similar to New World army ants, they send
out massive raiding parties that can consume seemingly anything in their path. These swarms have been known to kill and eat
animals as big as monkeys and pigs, which has given them a pretty fearsome reputation. Though, the column of ants only advances about
a meter every three minutes, so there’s plenty of time to get out of the way if you’re
paying attention. Driver ants spend part of their time as nomads
because the colony frequently shifts locations. But once they settle down to reproduce, things
get really extreme. They have the biggest queens of any ant species—a
little over five centimeters long. And these mega-moms each have up to fifteen
thousand ovarioles—the egg-producing structures inside insect ovaries—which they use to
lay eggs pretty much continuously while the colony is settled. Queens of one species in particular can produce
three to four million eggs over the course of about a month, and other, related species
aren’t far behind. That’s… a lot of baby ants. But at least they have millions of older siblings
around to raise them and show them the ropes. Two closely related frog species were discovered
in the 1970s and ’80s in the mountains of Queensland, Australia, and named for their
unique way of raising their offspring. For even among the weird world of amphibian
parents, the gastric brooding frogs stand out. Once a female lays a brood of eggs, the male
fertilizes them, and then the female swallows them. A hormone in the eggs tells her stomach to
stop producing acid so her twenty-five or so tadpoles can hatch in there and literally
develop inside her stomach for the next six weeks, safe from the dangers of the outside
world. How did this evolve?! Mom obviously isn’t eating anything during
this time, and the tadpoles’ gill mucus helps protect them from any remaining dribbles
of stomach acid. The developing tadpoles take up so much room
that over time, the mother’s lungs are squashed, forcing her to breathe directly through her
skin. Eventually a series of tiny but fully-formed
froglets come crawling out of her mouth, ready to take on the world. But if she’s stressed out, she can speed
this process up, projectile vomiting her young with such force that they land over half a
meter away. Sadly, both species of gastric-brooding frog
went extinct by the mid-1980s, and nobody is sure why. But scientists are trying to resurrect them
using DNA from frozen specimens, so maybe one day these special frogs will live in the
mountains of Australia once again. The mothers on this list all make a lot of
sacrifices for their offspring, but in at least three species of social spiders, moms
and aunts make the ultimate sacrifice. Unusually for spiders, these species live
in family groups that share communal nests. Only about forty percent of the females ever
get the chance to mate. But, since all the spiders in a nest are related,
even non-breeding females are motivated to help make sure the family genes are passed
on. Once a batch of eggs hatches, both the mother
and some of her sisters feed them by regurgitating a nutritious fluid from their mouths. But this ain’t just any old regurgitate! Producing this spider “milk” takes a /lot/
of resources — the caregivers basically liquefy themselves to do it. Eventually, when these spider mothers and
aunts have nothing left to give, they die, and the babies eat what’s left of them. Only then are they ready to start fending
for themselves. The technical term for mother-eating is matriphagy,
and it’s pretty rare, for obvious reasons. Besides spiders, it’s only been documented
in a few insects and nematode worms. Maternal care really doesn’t get any more
extreme than that! But whether it’s offering their own bodies
to nourish their young, or carrying them around for years, all the animals on this list take
mommying to a whole new level. And that extra effort pays off. By giving their all for their offspring—sometimes
quite literally—they help their kids make it in this often unforgiving world. And it does kind of put cleaning spit up and
managing temper tantrums in perspective. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
and thank you to all of our moms! If you like learning about extreme animal
parenting, you might like our episode on the animal kingdom’s awesomest dads. ♪

100 thoughts on “7 Extreme Animal Moms

  1. I didn't expect a video about moms to be not safe for food.

    Never Ever watch biology videos while eating.

  2. Hopefully nobody tried to buy their moms a present from the scishow store. It's nothing more than a bait-and-switch scam. They trick you with a picture of a nifty trilobite any sci-mom would be proud to show off to her friends, but after they get your money the scishow sends you a disgusting lump of rock that looks exactly like a dog turd. So disgusting you can't even give it away to kids who are fascinated with fossils. So never give scishow any money, they'll just rip you off.

  3. Indeed, how DID the gastric brooding frog evolve? Think about it. Let's use our brains here… gears turning

  4. As far as record breakers go, while I don't exactly have any numbers to back up this claim, but I'd bet a pretty penny that humans manage one of the highest retention rates of offspring to adulthood

  5. One of the photographers was called karlermosin könig which I believe means crimson king, also there is a character in the dark tower named the crimson king

  6. Transition at the beginning was a little fast, made it sound like you were calling your mom an elephant 😛

  7. Hornbills… sounds like me and my kids when I was the stay at home parent. Might not have been the best housekeeper.

  8. There really should have been a trigger warning before the toad stuff. My puke just barely missed my laptop.

  9. Hearing about babies eating their way out of their mother while having breakfast… and finishing breakfast. Check!

  10. When it comes to nature, not many things will get to me. However, aside from certain parasites, there is one exception: the Suriname toad. People talk about spiders and snakes and all other creepy-crawlies, but no. Those are nothing. This thing is what nightmares are truly made of. I learned about this abomination of zoology long before watching this video but even so, just hearing about it… Well, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. So, SciShow, I sincerely thank you for not showing footage of the act.

  11. I was sad for all the tropophobes that there was no footage of the frogs emerging from the skin of the mother Surinam Toad. However, I am more disappointed that there was no footage of the Gastric Brooding Frog projectile vomiting. We must bring them back… for science!

  12. It's things like these that makes life seem even more pointless and unethical. Just bc u can create life, doesn't mean you should. We aren't "meant" to pass on our genes. Life has no meaning. There's no meaning to suffer.
    But after saying this ofc, some dumbasses are going to think I am suicidal when the truth just needs to be told.

  13. ooof thank god i'm not an arachnophobic number 7 came sudden and with much detail, maybe put in a warning?

  14. Those spiders are so sweet? That‘s such a lovely family? Also JEBUS I was not expecting Matriphagy tho shoulda waited to hear the whole thing wow

  15. In Chester zoo in the last year or so – there's a TV series about the zoo, this comes from the latest series (Nov '18) – their elephant matriarch was having the last baby she was due to ever have. She's arthritic and they didn't want to put too much strain on her body, but she really loves having babies! Also they're a zoo which specialises in breeding endangered species (these are Asian eles), so when it's the right thing to do, they breed them. (The animal's health is always priority. In this case it was as much her mental health as physical.)

    So there they were, 22 months on, mum's got a big belly… Nothing happens. Ok, it can take a month or so longer than 22 months. They kept a v close eye on her, and by 25 months she had started losing weight and scans weren't showing a baby (they knew it wasn't a phantom pregnancy from earlier scans). Apparently, when things go wrong, it's possible for an elephant to absorb much of a dead baby before delivering what's left. The keepers were devastated and waiting for the horrendous inevitable outcome.
    They went to work one morning and checked in on the animals before properly starting work (animals first, tea second!) and had the biggest, best shock ever. There were four more legs among the closely gathered forest of elephants than should be there… Straight up to the CCTV, and they got to watch their precious matriarch having her final, live healthy baby! After 25 months!

    And I thought my youngest being 2 weeks overdue was pushing it lol!
    (Btw, the mummy ele was absolutely wonderfully happy! Arthritis or not, and I have it so I know how painful it is, she was romping around the yard when they decided it was safe to let baby out. She's enjoying playing with her baby and it's blindingly obvious that this is the case. They did the right thing by her :-D)

  16. Hank “My mom’s the best mom!”

    Negates to not give a single mention of his wife and mother of his child!….Oops!

    I think Hank stepped in a bit of hornbill nest that day.

  17. I listen to your videos while working on cars and I thought you said Sicilians, not caecilians, as in the people of Sicily. I had to rewind the video and rewatch it to be sure you weren't slighting the Mediterranean people by calling them worms

  18. Can’t forget octopi; the female stays with her brood until they hatch into fully formed miniatures, “exhaling” water over the egg sacs constantly to ensure they stay oxygenated. This comes at the cost of the mother’s life, as she will absolutely not hunt for food during this time, and because they only come together to mate, she is in her own.

  19. Human moms either care for their babies for 18 years or they kill them if motherhood is an inconvenience at the moment… that's super extreme.

  20. Dear God. Thank you for not making me a Mrs. Hornbill. Oh, and thank you again, God. For not allowing my husband to be my
    Mr. Hornbill…I would have starved. And then resorted to eating my hornbills and taking poo and putting it well, just anywhere, really.

  21. Honestly, so many religions over time have had a concept of an Earth Mother or Mother Nature and it is so clear to see why, mothers are the worldly creators

  22. Have you seen mom scorpions? I thought awwwww how cute ? then I remembered I got stung by a scorpion and I just stepped on the mom with her baby scorpions on her back. Oooooooupsy ?

  23. Imagine a man jizzing pellets on to a woman’s back, the pellets being pulled into the skin, and forming little pimples that get bigger over nine months, and then “pop” toddlers. My mind is a disgusting abnormality.

  24. papa toad: are the kids getting under your skin?
    mama toad: they must get their genes from your side of the family.

  25. ???Omg I think ya'll just ruined sex for me ???. Jk.. This was very.. Interesting.. I can't think of another word to describe this, my school sucked. ?

  26. I was about to search "Gastric brooding frog projectile vomiting its babies" but then you said they were extinct

  27. I bet it the frogs evolved eating their kids, when a baby frog eating eagle set up shop. Some frog mom said, "Hey, you're just gonna get et anyways, why waste the protein?"

    She had the egg laying enzyme mutation, the dumb frogs who didn't eat their kids died out, and she rules as a queen over her distopian, frog inside of frog, empire – to this very day.

  28. I appreciate your not showing an actual photo of a Suriname Toad mother. A photo of such a toad in our encyclopedia when I was about 10 is the first thing I ever saw that caused holes to gross me out!

  29. No. 6 the Gastric Brooding Frog disappeared due to logging of its native habitat, we’re having the same issue with the koala right now, the party in charge of the government has been cutting and dividing Australia’s natural resources despite heeded warnings of ecological collapse.

  30. Yeah my mother would say things like I love you more than anything in the whole world. Then she would get fall-down drunk and almost burn the house down while we slept. Thanks nature! Or is that nurture? Who cares who needs parents anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *