Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wildlife Mothers

We humans tend to think a mother's care is virtually essential to an infant's survival. Consequently, it may surprise us to learn that, among wild animals, most mothers shun their young.

It is true: 99 percent of the world's million or so animal species that have been identified simply lay their eggs or bear their babies and then move on. However, for the 1 percent that do tend their young, parenting is no picnic.

For example, an opossum may have more than a dozen hungry mouths to feed. A hen mallard and her brood live in constant danger from roving predators. And among certain spiders, the mother may wind up being eaten by her own offspring.

Still, despite popular ideas about maternal love, the actions of even the most self-sacrificing wildlife mother are suspect: the elephant that guards her dead calf, the red-winged blackbird that feigns injury to distract a predator. Such scenarios are really the result of instincts generally programmed to preserve the species. Read the article

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