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The Many Mothers of the Animal Kingdom

This article appeared in the 5/3/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

The Many Mothers of the Animal Kingdom

Alligator protecting her nest. Photo by Lori Oberhofner

The Many Mothers of the Animal Kingdom

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


It’s common for mothers of mammals and birds to care extensively for their young, by providing food, warmth, protection, sometimes even dying to protects their offspring.  But what about some the other species in the animal kingdom?


Many fish lay eggs, like salmon and goldfish, while others, like mollies, bear live young.  Some species of fish have adapted a unique way to protect their young called Mouthbrooding. This is where the parent fish will carry eggs and sometimes the tiny hatchlings in their mouth to protect them. This is common in catfish and cichlids.


Even some species of insect and arachnids will do some parental care.  In hive insects, like ants, bees, wasps, the female drones and workers care for the eggs and larvae while the mother or queen lays them.  Solitary bees and wasps will build a nest and provide them with food until they become adults.  Wolf spiders and some species of scorpion carry their young on their backs for an extended period of time to protect them from potential predators.


Most reptiles are indifferent to their young, sometimes laying eggs and then leaving the nest.  But mother crocodiles and alligators are very caring and protective of their young. Both varieties build deep, elaborate nests to keep the eggs not only warm, but well protected.  Mothers do stray form the nest to feed and bask, but they are quick to respond to any danger to their nests.  When the eggs hatch, the mothers help to dig out the hatchlings and carry the babies in their mouth to the water.  Some species of caiman create nurseries with other mothers to collectively watch over the young.


There is even some evidence in the fossil record of parenting in dinosaurs. Species like Oviraptoror Troodonhave found adults on top of nests in a speculated brooding position. There have been large nesting sites found that contain multiple individuals of Maiasaura, all with a large range of ages determined by size and lines of arrested growth.  The discovery of the nest site prompted the name of Maiasaura, meaning good mother lizard.


The level of care differs from species to species, but animal mothers all do something to guarantee their offspring survive and thrive.


There are new addition each week in Explorit’s fish tank as our mollies have their babies.  Stop by during out public hours to check them out.



Explorit's coming events:

·      NEW THIS SUMMER-Check out the new evening teen camp July 8 – 12 "The Stars and Our Night Sky" for ages 12-16 yrs. Learn about the stars, planets, moons, black holes and other phenomenon in the sky. Explore the use of various telescopes and learn to identify stars and planets.




Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or "like" us on Facebook at

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