Moms are heroes in any species. In many, they do not only the birthing and nursing, but also the hunting and fighting and protecting. And while human mothers certainly deserve all of the flowers and phone calls they get on Mother's Day, we dare say that there are other species where motherhood is an even more trying and/or terrifying ordeal. For instance ...
Even if you only know Tasmanian devils from the Warner Bros. cartoons, you can guess that their family life isn't a goddamned Norman Rockwell painting. Pound for pound, Tasmanian devils have the strongest mammalian bite in the world. They eat everything down to the bones, and then they eat the bones ... and then the clothes and shoes. They're mean, gluttonous little cusses who will chew through metal if the mood strikes them.
"I'll eat through this screen if it means getting to your delicious face meats."
They get their training in animal badassery early, as their very first act of life is basically a Thunderdome death match that fewer than one in 10 will survive. The problem is that the mother will give birth to as many as 50 pups ... but she only has four lactation dispensaries (aka boobs) with which to feed them.
And Tasmanian devils don't share for shit. Because there are only four milk spigots, only four pups will survive. Plain and simple. As soon as they're born, there's a race to see who gets one of mommy's feeding nozzles. Whoever makes it there first and can hold on wins.
"GAH, MAKE THAT THREE NIPPLES."
The remaining 46 starve to death within hours.
In short, nature goes through the trouble of creating 50 squirming newborns and then lets 92 percent of them die pretty much immediately for no reason other than to drive home the point that sharing is for losers.
Which is why there are no Tasmanian devil copyright violators.
If you like to sneak around ranches so you can secretly watch horses have sex, you've probably noticed something: After a mare gets pregnant, she immediately starts engaging in promiscuous sex with everyone. From an evolutionary perspective, this might not make sense -- she is, after all, already pregnant, so you'd think her urge for huge stallion boners would decrease. But there is a strategy at play.
"I just wanted to have as much sex as possible before you ruined my life."
Male horses don't like competition, so when they come across a foal that isn't theirs, they have a tendency to kick it to death (think about that the next time you see a bunch of horse posters in a little girl's bedroom). But they won't do it to their own kid. So mom's goal is to make it so that none of the males in the herd know for sure the kid isn't theirs ... by having sex with every single one of them.
In other words, being slutty saves lives.
So mamma's giving it up like a back alley hooker to protect her precious child. Is there any story more inspiring than a mother willing to sacrifice everything, even her dignity, for the safety of her offspring? But then, of course, if she's not allowed to screw every swinging dick in the pasture, she'll just go ahead and abort the pregnancy.
Yes, horses can totally do that. Though scientists aren't quite sure how this is done, it's believed to be the result of a natural chemical process within the mare if she senses that the eventual foal would be in danger from aggressive males vying for dominance. Research done on zebras showed that if even a single new male was brought into the herd, the foal's chances of survival fell to less than 5 percent. Yes, even worse than the Tasmanian devils up there.
Each stripe is one more infanticide.
You may be aware that male seahorses give birth -- it's one of those quirky factoids they try to hold your attention with in fourth grade science class. Well, it's the same for pipefish (who are members of the same family as the seahorse). The female passes the eggs to the male, who holds them in his belly until they grow up. It naturally makes pipefish sound like the most devoted fathers on earth. But then scientists noticed something rather odd: Sometimes babies would go missing.
"Oh, so you want me to give birth and give a shit about the little brats? Unbelievable."
To solve this mystery, scientists laced the mother with mildly radioactive amino acids. Unfortunately, the experiment was a dismal failure, because the mamma pipefish did not develop any super powers whatsoever. It did, however, let them track the eggs and find out that dad was eating them like embryonic popcorn. Now, you may say that this isn't all that weird as far as animals are concerned -- animals are stupid, after all, and one day dad probably just got hungry and was like, "Hey! Somebody left some eggs here!"
"Oh, don't look at me that way, honey. We'll forget about this in three -- hey, somebody left some eggs here!"
But researchers also discovered that males would eat more of the embryos of small or unattractive females. They will sometimes abort/eat up to half of the younglings of a homely mate. By restricting the flow of nutrients to the brood pouch, the babies are left to fight for the scarce resources. Only the strong survive ... and dad consumes the rest. Which only makes sense. If you're going to have ugly kids, why not just eat them before they hatch?
Oh sure, that's a fine rule for fish. But the second you apply it to cats, everyone starts yelling and calling the police.
Science speculates that pipefish do this because they simply don't want to waste resources on offspring that aren't genetically fit (i.e., the ugly ones). So yes, they devour babies and they're shallow.
"Babies are like beers -- the uglier they are, the more of them you need to consume."