Just tune in on Animal Planet and you’ll see nature unfold in mysterious and fun ways. However, when it comes to taking care of their young, some animals take a very unique approach. The following weird animal parenting styles are just that: weirdly cute, weirdly gross, or weirdly sad.
1. Cuckoos surrogate mothers
Cuckoos, by default, put their eggs in the nests of other bird species, they only need 10 seconds to sneak it in. Once the cuckoo chick hatches it may instinctively push the host bird’s eggs or chicks out of the nest, leaving the host bird to raise the cuckoo chick as its own.
2. Crocodile “mothering”
Crocodile mothers help their hatchlings by carrying them in their mouths to the water. While this might sound like a dangerous practice, it offers protection from predators and ensures a safe journey. Plus, it looks kinda cute to see a massive creature be so gentle.
3. Female kangaroos can pause their pregnancy
4. Octopus motherly sacrifice
Get your tissues ready for this one. Female octopuses sometimes lay as much as 100,000 eggs, but they devote themselves to guarding. During this period, the mother stops eating and she ends up dying way before her offspring hatch. Yes, there are exceptions, but very few.
5. Seahorse dad-mom
Male seahorses carry and give birth to the young. They have a special pouch where the female transfers her eggs. The male’s brood pouch provides a safe environment for the developing embryos.
6. Aphid “cloning”
Aphid mothers produce live offspring through a process called parthenogenesis, which doesn’t require mating. These baby aphids are essentially clones of their mother, and they’re born pregnant with more clones.
7. Stingless bee nanny system
Stingless bees have a unique system of caste parenting. In their colonies, workers are divided into different castes, and some workers act as “nannies” to care for the young, while others specialize in defense or foraging.
8. Mouthbrooding fish
Some fish, like the mouthbrooding cichlids, protect their young by holding them in their mouths. The parents carry the eggs and sometimes even the hatched fry, keeping them safe from predators. And yes, it goes both ways, both the father or the mother can act as carrier or even both at the same time.
9. Flamingo daycare centers
After the chick is five days old, flamingo parents leave it in large groups – that basically act as a daycare – all so while they forage. Chicks recognize their parents’ calls, and these gatherings provide safety in numbers.
10. Assassin bug cannibalizing mood
Female assassin bugs lay their eggs and allow the male to guard them closely. While doing so, the male will resort to eating some of the eggs, usually the ones on the outer edge of the brood, allowing only a few to survive. This ensures he has enough energy to supervise the eggs and to resume foraging while the eggs hatch.
11. Giant water bug “dad babysitters”
Giant water bug fathers carry the eggs on their backs since this is where the female decided to lay them before quickly running away. The single dad is then forced to stay close to the water surface to ensure his kids get enough oxygen.
12. Hamster cannibalism
Some hamster mothers are known to eat their young if they feel threatened or stressed. This unusual behavior ensures the survival of the rest of the litter or in some cases, it’s a sign that the female hamster is not ready to care for her babies so she kills and eats all of her babies.
13. Koala joey’s “pap” diet
Baby koalas, called joeys, consume a specialized substance known as “pap,” a modified form of the mother’s feces. It helps them develop the gut bacteria necessary for digesting eucalyptus leaves.
14. The horror of meerkats
Darn cute from the outside but rather eerie when you get to study their behavior. They have one dominant male and female, these two being the only ones allowed to breed. If another female has a baby she will end up banished and her baby consumed by the dominant female.
15. Gray langur monkeys “it takes a village” approach
In gray langur monkey societies you will find multiple females that help care for and protect the infants. These “alloparent” females share the responsibility of childcare, through thick and thin.
16. Mud-dauber wasps meal prep
Female mud-dauber wasps construct mud nests with individual cells for each egg. They lay a paralyzed spider in each cell, and when the larvae hatch, they have a snack on hand.
17. American alligator “nest overheating”
Female American alligators create nests out of organic material. The heat generated by decomposition helps incubate the eggs meaning the alligator mother doesn’t have to stay perched on top of the eggs, but she still has to be nearby to protect the eggs from predators.
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18. Adélie penguin is the stone thief
Adélie penguins use stones to build nests because that’s the only thing available. They collect them diligently, sometimes even stealing from other penguins. Studies have shown that they even seem to target some nests more than others.
19. Great horned owl the nest thief
Another petty theft, this time from the great horned owl. Most of the time they don’t build their own nest because, let’s face it, that’s hard work. Instead, they take old nests from other birds, making them their own by redecorating in case the bowl of the nest is too small.