If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ll know that the 280 days humans are pregnant for can feel like a lifetime. African Elephants, in comparison, really are pregnant for a lifetime: a whopping 645 days. On the other end of the spectrum is the Virginian Opossum, which has the shortest gestation period of all animals at just 14 days. Want more weird and wonderful animal pregnancy and birth facts? Keep reading…
The hands-on dad
Male seahorses are very hands-on dads. Females put their unfertilised eggs into a pouch on the male’s stomach and that’s her parenting responsibilities over. From there, the male is solely responsible for incubating and giving birth to the babies – we like the sound of that! Check out the short clip below to see how effortless they make the whole birthing process look…
Opossums – marsupials found in North America – are pregnant for just 14 days. When their babies are born (they have up to 20 in a litter) they’re each about the size of a jelly bean. Immediately after birth, they climb into their mother’s pouch, where they’ll stay and continue to develop for the next 100 days.
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Welcome to the world
Baby giraffes have a pretty rough start to life: mothers give birth while standing up so their babies are welcomed to the world with a fall of between 1.5 and 2 metres – yikes! Turns out the fall is good for the baby though, because that’s what snaps the umbilical cord and encourages the baby to take its first breath.
A pregnant pause
Imagine being able to hit ‘pause’ on your pregnancy. Well, armadillos can do exactly that! If conception happens at a time that isn’t considered ideal, they’ll ‘pause’ their pregnancy in the early stages (the technical term for this is embryonic diapause – you can read more about this here) and the embryo will continue to develop when it’s safe to do so, meaning their offspring are always born at the ideal time. This is behaviour that has also been seen in some bears, kangaroos, badgers and rodents. Now that’s smart!
They’re coming out where?!?
Warning: if you’re a bit squeamish, you may want to skip ahead to the next weird animal pregnancy or birth fact. The Surinam Toad mates in water and, as each egg is released by the female, the male fertilises it and presses it into one of the many holes in the female’s back. A layer of skin then grows over the eggs and when the frogs are mature (yes, they’re born as frogs NOT tadpoles) they are birthed out of her back. If that description didn’t give you enough of a visual, you might enjoy this video…
The platypus is one of only a handful of mammals that lay eggs and their offspring are ‘born’ with an ‘egg tooth’, a hard tooth-like structure on their snouts which they use to break out of their shells. Another crazy birthing fact about platypus? Although they produce milk, platypus don’t have nipples – the milk is excreted by mammary gland ducts and their offspring lap it up off their mother’s skin or fur.
P.S We think you should know that the collective noun for a group of platypus is a paddle!
Wow… just, wow
Guinea pigs are prolific breeders. They can give birth to up to 5 litters a year – with between 1 and 8 babies per litter – as their pregnancies last an average of only 63 days. But here’s the really shocking bit: the females are fertile again somewhere between 2 and 15 hours after giving birth!
So, this isn’t a weird fact but still something we think deserves a mention. If you’ve ever gone through childbirth you may be able to sympathise with mommy elephants everywhere: their babies are born weighing around 100kg. And remember that there are no epidurals in the wild. Ouch!
And – before you go – here’s another bit of trivia you can casually throw into conversation with friends: baby elephants suck their trunks in the same way human babies suck their thumbs.