Sure, your mom may be the best around. But these animal mothers are a close second when it comes to caring for their kids.
These creatures have a reputation for being fierce. So it may surprise you to hear that they’re tender-hearted when their kids are involved. A mom alligator lays 20 to 60 eggs, and she carefully guards her nest to make sure predators don’t nab any. When they begin to hatch, she often helps her babies by breaking the shells with her mouth. Once all of her young have hatched, she gently carries them in her mouth to the water. They hang around with their mom for about a year, and she protects the small alligators whenever they call out. She even lets them ride on her head or back when they need a lift.
Both mom and dad are excellent parents. But an emperor penguin mother goes an extra long way to feed her young. She leaves her egg with Dad and sets out on a two month journey to the ocean. After walking about 80 km, she hunts for fish and squid. The mother penguin then travels the long distance back home, where she throws up the fishy meal for her chick to eat. The mother emperor penguin cares for her chick, protecting it from the extreme cold by covering it with her warm, feathered skin.
This is one dedicated mom. After a mother octopus lays up to 200,000 eggs (wow!), she fiercely guards them for weeks or months to prevent an attack by a predator. In fact, she never leaves the eggs alone, even to get herself food. Researchers recently observed one deep sea octopus mom that took her job super seriously. She stayed with her arms wrapped around her eggs for 53 months. That’s four and a half years – an animal kingdom record for caring for eggs! What’s more, she didn’t appear to eat anything during the entire time she stood guard.
Orangutan moms and their children have a very strong relationship. A young orangutan will stay with its mother for the first six to seven years of its life, which is quite unusual in the animal kingdom. During its first two years, it relies entirely on its mother for food and transportation, travelling by piggyback. As it grows, a mother orangutan teaches its young many lessons, including where to find fruit and how to build a sleeping nest. While males usually leave their mom before the age of 10, female orangutans often remain with their mothers until they reach about 15 years old.
It may be hard to think of a spider as a caring mom, but that’s just the case with the wolf spider. While most spiders wrap their eggs in a silken pouch and leave them behind, this mom straps her egg sac to her body. She carries the sac along wherever she goes. If it happens to fall off, the wolf spider mom frantically searches for it. And once her eggs hatch, this mother’s work isn’t done. She cares for the little crawlers and lets them ride on her back until they are ready for life on their own.