Counting down nature’s toughest moms

Published 6:32 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Being a mom is hard enough when you are human. Depending on what species you are, it can actually be a lot tougher.

Since Mother’s Day is coming up soon, we are going to do a countdown of the toughest moms on the planet.

5. Opossums

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Opossum moms can have between four and 25 babies at one time. That can be a lot of babies considering that possums are marsupials, so they will need to drink their mother’s milk. And since they are marsupials, their babies will need to stay in their pouch until they are ready to be on their own. It can take  between 70 and 125 days before their babies are ready to be on their own. That’s a really crowded house.

4. Red-knobbed hornbills

Moms are often super busy and forget to take care of themselves. Sometimes, we might even forget to eat. But the red-knobbed hornbill takes this focus on the babies to a whole different level.

They use holes in trees as their nesting sites and they will lay their eggs in there. Monitor lizards think their eggs are tasty treats, so to avoid predation, the hornbill will put her feces in the entryway so the monitor lizard cannot get in. Then the momma hornbill will sit on her nest for two months — she doesn’t leave to eat or anything. That is a resourceful and patient momma!

3. Octopuses

Being a mom of multiple children is difficult work, but no matter how many kiddos you have, octopus moms have us all beat. They have more than 50,000 eggs at one time. Once she lays the eggs, the momma octopus stays near her eggs to protect them from predators and to blow currents of water over the eggs to aerate them. The length of this process can vary greatly depending on the octopus species and can last from 40 days to more than half a year.

2. Meerkats

I’m sure your mom loves you, but when was the last time that she took the stinger off a scorpion for you? Meerkats love to eat scorpions, but young meerkats haven’t quite gotten down the art of eating the scorpion without being stung. Until the pup is able to catch and eat a scorpion on their own, the mom and other adults in the group will catch the scorpion and disable it’s stinger so the youngster can safely kill and eat it.

1. Mesabolivar aurantiacus

Often being a mom feels like your have your hands full all the time. The Mesabolivar aurantiacus spider has a solution for when she needs to look after her babies but keep her hands free: Instead of using a carrier of some kind, she just puts her egg sac in her jaws and holds it there until her eggs are ready to hatch. This is a pretty smart solution, though it’s tough on mom because she can’t eat until her eggs have hatched.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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