113. It’s Mother’s Day

In recognition of Mother’s Day, National Geographic posted twenty-one photos of Beautiful Moments Between Animal Mothers and Their Babies in their Photo Gallery. Included with each photo was a short explanation of some of the more unique and varying mothering methods found in the animal kingdom.

“Every animal can thank a mom for making life possible,” writes the author.
“Some mothers lay eggs, in treetops or on the seafloor, while others labor through long pregnancies and live births. Many moms are on their own, but a fortunate few get help from babysitters or nursemaids. Mother-child bonding runs the gamut of relationship styles.”

Among the twenty-one animals featured in the photo gallery, five live on African soil.

And despite the heart-warming topic, not all the photos conjure up warm and cuddly thoughts.

Source: National Geographic, Photography by Zssd, Miden Picture

Emperor scorpion mothers give birth to an average of nine to 32 fully formed young. Here, an emperor scorpion, one of the world’s largest scorpions, carries her immature offspring on her back.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Nichols, Nat Geo Image Collection

Lion moms may live with their daughters for life. The African lions live in prides dominated by related females, like this cub-wrangling mom in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Frans Lanting, Nat Geo Image Collection

During the early weeks of her cubs’ lives, the mother must move them every few days to avoid predators. If all goes well, cheetah siblings stay with their mom for about a year and a half, learning to hunt.
Some cheetahs are supermoms, not only raising their own young but fostering the cubs of others.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Zssd, Miden Pictures

Hippo calves are often born underwater. It’s up to Mom to push her calf to the surface to take its first breath.

Mothers are fiercely protective of their young, but they also have a softer side, cleaning and doting on their calves. If its baby dies, mothers even display what some scientists interpret as grief.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Madelaine Castles, Nat Geo Image Collection

Giraffe calves stand within 30 minutes of birth. It’s critical that they do so, as newborn calves are a favorite meal of many African predators.
Before they are born, mom has to endure a 15-month pregnancy, which allows for the development of a six-foot-tall baby with strong muscles and nervous system.

48. Highlighting the Hippopotamus

I certainly know one when I see one.
They eat . . .ummm . . plants, I think.
They’re big guys.
They can walk on the bottom of a riverbed.
It’s fun to say the plural — hippopotamuses.
They have twitchy ears.

Even though my bank of knowledge was already pretty impressive, I suspected there was more to learn.
Here’s what a little bit of googling got me.

Hippos are gregarious, living in groups of up to thirty animals. A group is called a pod, herd, dale, or bloat.

You should worry less about lions and Nile crocodiles and instead keep an eye out for hippos.They’re the biggest people-killers on the continent. And they give no hint as to when or why they might attack.

There are two species of hippos — the large/common hippo and the smaller relative, the pygmy hippo.

The process of surfacing every 3 – 5 minutes from the river’s floor to breathe is automatic. Even a hippo sleeping underwater will rise and breathe without waking!

Hippos can open their mouths to a massive 150 degrees to show their razor-sharp teeth, capable of biting a small boat in half.

Hippos mate in the water — with the female sometimes fully submerged. (Female hippos need a #MeToo movement.)
Hippo calves are born underwater.

Their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc.) from which they diverged about 55 million years ago. (Never would have guessed that.)

There are a number of very informative videos on YouTube, two of which I have embedded here.
The second video (1 minute in length) will be of particular interest to any 7-year-old boys you may know.

Source: The Secrets of Nature, YouTube (Time: 5:02)
Source: Natural World, BBC, YouTube (Time: 0:53)