5 Obnoxious Things Animals Do That Will Make You Feel Better About Parenting A Human
Gestating and rearing a tiny human is a lot of work, and it can be hard not to look with a touch of jealousy at a mouse’s 21-day pregnancy, or the few months it takes for a puppy to achieve independence from his mother. But don’t feel too badly about it: there are a lot of very good reasons in the animal kingdom to be glad you’re a human parent to a human baby instead of the alternative.
1. Conception – Marine Flatworms
Being pregnant comes along with swollen ankles, backaches, lifestyle restrictions, and a horde of strangers thinking it’s totally cool to come grope your belly. But what if you could inflict all of that on your partner instead of yourself? Hermaphroditic marine flatworms have taken the battle of the sexes to hilarious extremes: two flatworms will duel each other until one wins by stabbing the other one with a load of sperm. This behavior is called ‘penis fencing’ by scientists, because as it turns out scientists aren’t any more mature than the rest of us. Personally, I like the 50-50 shot at avoiding having to be personally responsible for gestation, but I’m not too keen on the potential for pregnancy via stabbing. I’m happy to be stuck with stretch marks and enormous clown feet instead.
Fun fact: the white pointy things in the above picture are the flatworm’s penises. (Penii?) So if your boss is really into invertebrates, this article might technically be NSFW.
2. Post-Baby Body – Suriname Toad
During her toad-on-toad sexytimes, the Suriname toad’s eggs become embedded in her back, where they stay as they hatch into tadpoles. Most frogs and toads are living solo by this point, but not the Suriname toad’s offspring: they continuing to occupy Mom’s back skin as they continue to develop into miniature toads. I assume that the young toads eventually return to their mother’s back after graduating college until they find steady amphibian work. I have a post-pregnancy perma-pooch of belly skin that’s never going away, but on the bright side, I don’t have a toddler-sized saggy empty skin-bag hanging off of my back. #winning
3. High-Needs Baby – Cuckoo Bird
See that mama and baby bird up there? Take another look. The tiny little brown bird is the adult, a warbler; the enormous pudge-monster on the left is a baby cuckoo bird. Cuckoo eggs are laid in warblers’ nests by female cuckoos, who are the ultimate in hands-off parents. They leave their babies to be raised by the warblers, who, as birds, aren’t well equipped to call the hospital to ask about possible mix-ups in the nursery. Another thing they aren’t well equipped to do is feed a baby bird who is pretty quickly going to dwarf them. Every time the cuckoo baby opens up its giant gaping maw to squawk for more food, it hits the switch in the warbler’s brain that says, “Oh shit, did I forget to feed the kid?!” Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to make enough dinner to satisfy my one-year-olds, but at least they’re not fully double my size.