Some mothers lay eggs, in treetops or on the seafloor, while others labor through long pregnancies and live births. Many moms are on their own, but a fortunate few get help from babysitters or nursemaids. Some moms have dedicated co-parents, but others have to go it alone—or even contend with infanticidal killers.
Mother-child bonding runs the gamut of relationship styles. Lion moms may live with their daughters for life, harp seals must cram every bit of their maternal care into less than two weeks, and many lizards never meet their offspring at all. Some mothers, like octopuses, sacrifice their lives to give the next generation its start.
Just keeping babies alive long enough to reach adulthood is a challenge. But moms also have to teach their young how to be a monkey, a cheetah, a whale, or a falcon. (Read how animal mothers remind us a lot of our own.)
“Many species seem to recognize that the young really don’t know what they are doing,” says animal behavioralist Jennifer Verdolin, author of the book Raised by Animals, “so they are given a kind of grace period to learn.”
One thing that most all animal mothers have in common is sacrifice; nature doesn’t make it easy to nurture the next generation. This photo gallery celebrates some of those amazing animals who, in their own unique ways, dedicate themselves to motherhood.