Sunday, May 13, 2012

Smother's Day

Yes, yes. Mothers are great, buy them cards and flowers and things. Everybody loves them, they're the best members of the species blah blah Hallmark Channel blah blah pro-choice blah blah men are horrible.

Right. Now that that's out of the way, let me show you some species who consider Mother's Day a time of despair and terror because I'm a jerk like that.

Stegodyphus lineatus

It's not easy being a parent in this species. If you're a male then you might not even see a female before a bird swoops down to eat you. But even then the females don't have any scruples against killing or eating you before you have a chance to woo her with your bongo drum playing or whatever it is you spiders do. But if you're a female, congratulations because now you have to defend your precious eggs against the aforementioned desperate males who won't have second thoughts about eating them only to replace them with a new clutch he's sure he's responsible for. It's like those paternity tests on Maury in reverse. Of course that's assuming ants don't steal the eggs first and bring them back to their queen as a food offering.

But that's not the worst of it; assuming male spiders, birds, ants or even other females don't sabotage your eggs then you have something much worse to contend with once they hatch: the babies themselves.

Yes, the offspring are matriphagous which is a polite way of saying they eat their mothers.

Parasitoid Wasps

Sometimes, motherhood isn't frightening because of the pain the mother has to endure; sometimes the pain she's willing to put others through is much much worse.

Enter the parasitoid wasp: a huge family of insects that have made it their goal to get free child support by any means necessary. First of all, there's a difference between your garden variety parasites and parasitoids. Regular parasites are content to spend their entire natural life inside your body, feeding on your precious bodily fluids. While they're generally freeloading dead weight, it's not in their best interest to kill you so at least you have that going for you.

Not so with the parasitoid.

Parasitoids spend a comparatively short portion of their life inside other animals. You know, like after they've been forcefully injected into your body by their mother. Yes, there's an entire superfamily of wasps who forgo the raising of their children, leaving the responsibility to some other arthropod. They do this by sneaking up on their victim, injecting them with their eggs and flying away. Over the next couple days the aphid, caterpillar or what have you becomes the unwilling incubator of a new generation of parasitoid wasps. They grow inside it's body and hatch. Then they eat the host from the inside out.

If this sounds familiar maybe you've heard of a certain movie monster with a similar reproductive strategy.

No points for guessing which one.

Surinam Toads

Bogleech has something of a love affair with these particularly morbid amphibians. Not me though. I have to draw the line somewhere, even if it's at tiny baby frogs embedded in an adult's skin.

Allow me to explain. See, when a female Surinam releases her eggs, they stick to the skin on her back with help from the male. The skin grows over the eggs, trapping them in a nutrient layer of toad-matter. When the eggs hatch the newborns have only one option: burrow through their mother's back and swim away.

In a way I guess it's kind of cute in how dedicated these toad-mothers are to the well being of their children, protecting them in their own misshapen hunchbacks, it's just that it looks so so gross.

Naked Mole Rats

Quick, think of a small mammal that spends most of it's time in burrows. Are you thinking of rabbits?

Sorry to disappoint, but you're in Mole Rat Town now. But it's okay, because Mole Rats have plenty going for them. For example, they have an uncanny resistance to cancer and they live abnormally long for a rodent of their size, sometimes up to 28 years old. It sounds like they have a lot to discuss with the lobsters.

But naturally, their eternal youth comes at a terrible price. Mole rats are eusocial, meaning they live in hives like ants, bees and termites. This is completely unprecedented for mammals, there are only two species that have ever been recorded with such insect-like behavior, one of them being the Naked Mole Rats. They even have different castes like workers and warriors. And queens.

Yes, most females are sterile workers. Reproductive privileges belongs solely to the queen Mole Rat. She produces hormones to signal the beginning or her reign, summoning the males to her side. Then, she starts to undergo a horrible transformation to prepare her for her matronly duties. Her spine actually extends several inches to make room for all new Mole Rats she'll gestate.

So if you want to get an idea for what a queen looks like, imagine the above. The same pale, wrinkled troglodyte but longer, more worm-like in appearance. Constantly stewing in it's own filth, spewing hundred, thousands of offspring, attended to by the flabby mitts of it's minions. It's never seen the sun. All it can think of is eating, sleeping, producing more of it's hideous offspring. And it's out there right now. And it wants your blood.

Happy Mother's Day!

1 comment:

mom said...

HAHAHAHA ohhh Tyler..only you.

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