You have asked a very complex question that has
many answers. There are numerous ways in which
animals protect their young. Sometimes you will
see that both parents take care of their young
like many birds do. Sometimes only the mother
takes care of her newborn like rabbits and mice.
In some cases you may not see any parental care of
the young like with turtles.
Here is a
good article that might help you understand more
about how animals take care of their young. It was
taken out of this web-site: young
But I have copied it here too.
ARE HUMANS THE ONLY ANIMALS THAT CELEBRATE
MOTHER'S DAY? By Whit Gibbons
animals have a mother or a father. For example, a
detached starfish arm can grow into a complete
starfish. A starfish may have no mother. And what
do the whiptail lizards of the Southwest do on
Father's Day? In many of these desert-dwelling
lizard species no males exist. In a complicated
genetic process, only female offspring are
Ecology attempts to unravel the
many mysteries and variations of the natural
world, to identify patterns and order. But the
complexity of living systems interacting with
their environments and each other makes the
mission particularly difficult. Nonetheless, we
try to define, classify, and group biological
phenomena, in order to understand our own place in
the world. Categorizing parental care is one of
the most complex and fascinating challenges.
The range of variability among species
in the level and type of attention parents give to
their offspring is remarkable. Some show active
concern for the welfare of their young. Others
appear oblivious to what becomes of their
offspring. Humans, elephants, and alligators
represent one extreme. All have mothers who are
attentive to their offspring before birth and long
after. All will do what they can to protect their
babies from harm.
At the other
extreme, frogs, turtles, and many insects lay eggs
in selected spots, but the mothers soon disappear.
The eggs and young are on their own for the rest
of their lives. A few general principles of
parental care can be stated, but the exceptions to
the rules can make interpretation difficult.
Consistency does not always prevail.
Mammal babies depend on their mothers for milk for
nourishment; the mothers therefore show parental
care in the form of nursing their young. Even so,
the variability among species is great. Tree
shrews are mammals that give minimal attention to
their young. The female lives with her mate in one
tree and has her babies in a nest some distance
away. She visits the nest once every two days to
let the young nurse. In contrast, whales,
porpoises, and manatees take on a much greater
responsibility. They must not only nurse the young
but also make sure they nudge them to the surface
at regular intervals for air.
female birds actively perform as parents by at
least incubating the eggs. And in some cases both
parents provide care even after the babies hatch.
I recently watched a pair of brown thrashers over
several days constantly catching more worms and
insects than I thought they could possibly eat.
Eventually I found the nest of babies in a hedge,
although neither adult would go to it when they
thought I was watching. The parental instinct to
protect the young was further revealed one day
when my dog got too close to the hedge for their
comfort. Both parents strayed away from the nest,
chirping at the dog, who foolishly chased the
adults up and down the hedge, a safe distance away
from the nest it never saw. The measures some
animals will take to protect their offspring are
Of surprise to most people
is that mother pythons and king cobras remain with
and protect their eggs. And the newborn young of
diamondback rattlesnakes have been reported to
remain with their mothers for up to two weeks, a
surefire protection from most predators. Even some
salamanders and lizards stay with their eggs for
several weeks until the young hatch. In the social
insects such as wasps and ants, the entire colony
works to protect the young.
contrast, female American cowbirds deposit their
eggs in the nests of other birds and provide no
parental care themselves. Unknowing foster parents
raise the young of cowbirds along with their own
young. All turtles lay eggs and never look back.
Can we declare which animals make the best
mothers? The answer is no. The parents of every
species do what works best for them based on their
evolutionary history. Any species that is still
around has presumably been doing things right,
whether by constant attention or complete
The endless variability
among species and the exceptions to rules make
life intriguing. And the rules of motherhood and
parenting are as complex as any. But for us
humans, mothers are so special that we have
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