There are countless wild mothers out there worthy of mention, but here The Wildlife Trusts focus on three from the sea which carry their young for a very long time…
The spiny dogfish is found in waters around the UK. This shark has one of the longest “pregnancies” of any vertebrate animal – up to two years. Whilst not technically a true gestation (as the shark is a fish, not a mammal), the female nurtures the young within her body instead of releasing them as eggs into the dangerous, predator-filled seas. What care and devotion!
Many people would find the sight of a fluffy white seal pup endearing, doe-eyed and helpless, and none more so than its mother, who must simply be happy to see it born, after carrying it for 11 and a half months! That’s right, female grey seals are pregnant for almost the entire year. They come ashore in the early winter months to give birth. After three weeks suckling her pup, mum seeks out the company of a bull, and she will set out to sea again with a fertilised egg, ready to grow and emerge at the end of the following year. Considering grey seals can live to be 40 years old, she can expect many children, and grandchildren in her lifetime.
It may not seem the obvious candidate for a “mother of the year” award, but this clawed crustacean makes a very attentive mother. At between five and seven years old she reaches sexual maturity, and during mating many thousands of eggs are fertilised by the male. Then dad disappears, and the female lobster carries her eggs on her underside, for as long as nine to 12 months. During this time, she tends them carefully to keep them clean and healthy, and will constantly clear of them of debris by flickering her tail, ensuring plenty of well aerated water passes over them. Due to this TLC, thousands of these eggs will go on to hatch.
Lisa Chilton, Living Seas manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: "The UK’s marine environment is so very inspiring – everywhere you look there is a tale to tell about some of the fascinating sea creatures to be found there.
"Next time you are strolling on the beach take a moment to contemplate the trials and tribulations, including those of being a parent, that are happening just a few metres from the shore.
"Whilst lobsters, seals and dogfish will do what they can to protect their young from predators and to nurture them, ultimately their fate is in our hands, as we are the guardians of the seas they live in."
The Wildlife Trusts have a vision of Living Seas, in which wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows. To find out more, visit our Living Seas webpages.
Rachel Shaw, PR Officer for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust said: "In Lincolnshire, the sea can look cold and uninviting to us but the long coastline and two estuaries of the Humber and The Wash are vitally important for wildlife - vast numbers of wading birds and wildfowl inhabit the sand and mudflats attracted by the abundance of tasty marine worms and molluscs; sandbanks provide important nursery grounds for commercial fish species including plaice, cod and sole; and the flat sandy plains are used as hunting grounds by dogfish and seals."