Posts Tagged ‘mother’

So many baby octopuses

// March 8th, 2011 // Comments Off on So many baby octopuses // How Things Work, Just for Fun

One of my guilty pleasures is my RSS subscription to Zooborns, a blog all about baby animals. When I check Google Reader, I read sensible, serious blog posts about science until I finally cave and look at the cuteness.

Amongst the treasure trove of nursing giraffes and clinging baby apes was a clutch of baby octopuses! Perhaps clutch isn’t the right word… a handful? An armful! An armful of baby octopuses. Check it out.

Baby octopus at California Academy of Sciences

Baby octopus at California Academy of Sciences

Conception occurs when a male octopus inserts a modified sperm-containing arm into the female’s oviduct, though sometimes he removes his arm and she stores it in her mantel for later. Each egg, as it is laid, contains a long thread which the octopus uses to hold them all together like a bunch of grapes. A thoughtful mother, she protects them from predators and blows water currents across them for cleaning.

Biologist Richard Ross caught the hatching of the eggs on video, and described it as a waterfall flowing upwards towards the surface.

It’s an exciting event, but unfortunately a mother octopus stops eating to care for the eggs and dies which is a total bummer. With millions of tiny planktonic octopus young born, some should survive, though they are hard to feed and raise.

On a lighter note, Zooborns recently posted pictures of a Snow Leopard cub born in Chattanooga Zoo. Snow Leopards happen to be my favourite animal and the cub is so exceedingly cute I might die. A less attractive addition in Australia is the first palm cockatoo zoo bred in 40 years which has passed through the awkward teenage stage and is starting to fly.

Damn I want to work at a zoo.

Female babies respond to pregnancy stress, male babies don’t

// May 2nd, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Recent Research, Sex and Reproduction


Image by bettina n

Being stressed is not good for a pregnant mother, but how the baby reacts to the stress depends partly on its gender. Research led by Vicki Clifton from the University of Adelaide is finding out how stress changes the way babies develop.

When you’re pregnant, I imagine anything can stress you out. Were I up the duff (which I am not), I would most certainly stress about demon possessions… I can’t help but think of Omen and the Ring.

But it’s not just the mind. Asthma attacks, smoking and pre-eclampsia can put pregnant bodies under stress. The mother can communicate that stress to the baby while it’s still in the womb. Cortisol, a molecule involved in stress, causes changes in the placenta – but only if the baby is female.

A female baby will slow her growth when her mother is stressed. How thoughtful! By growing slowly she takes less energy and nutrients from her mother, which the mother might need to recover.

In contrast, a male baby does not change his growth with a stressed mother. He just keeps growing as fast as he can.

At first glance, it seems like a smart move for the male baby. Mother is stressed, something might be wrong, better grow as fast as you can and get the hell outta there. Unfortunately it’s not a good option. If there’s a second stressful event, the male baby is at risk of pre-term delivery or dying in the uterus. A female baby who has curbed her growth has a better chance of surviving.

The Darwin obsessed among you might wonder what evolutionary advantage is made by females reacting better to stress. If you have any ideas let me know, because I’m stumped.






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