Four Spectacular Ocean Moms!

By Sally Tang

Happy Mother’s Day from Birch Aquarium!

Human moms aren’t the only ones who devote a lot to their kiddos! Read on about these four ocean animals and their unique nurturing habits:

Horn Sharks: Making the Extra Effort

If you’ve visited the aquarium’s Tide Pool Plaza, you most likely have had the chance to see or hold an unfertilized Horn Shark egg. These unique screw-shaped eggs make the perfect size and shape for mom Horn Sharks to wedge into crevices to hide from predators! Horn Sharks are one of the only shark species to exhibit parental care for their offspring. This moving her egg to a safe place may not seem like much mothering, but it is a lot of love for a shark! 

Gray Whales: Marathon Mamas

Just as Gray Whale migration season is coming to an end, we’d like to spotlight our amazing mom whales for their 12,000 mile migration journey! Each year, Grey Whales make an epic migration. Pregnant mothers leave their feeding grounds in Alaska to make the trip to the warm lagoons in Baja California, Mexico to birth their calf. The mom and calf duo then make the trip back up north! What is most amazing, is that the mother Gray Whale does not feed once the migration has started. She is fasting for the entire last few months of her pregnancy, and the entire time she is nursing her calf from her blubber fat reserves. She will not feed until she and the calf make it back to the arctic! San Diego is fortunate enough to be along the route Grey Whales travel down so we are treated to great whale watching sights.

Octopus: Dedicated Mothers 

Octopuses are semelparous, meaning they reproduce just once before they pass away. Once a female octopus has laid her eggs, she devotes the rest of her life caring for her eggs. Just after brooding, she will watch over her eggs, stroking them and blowing water over the clutch to clean and make sure the eggs get enough oxygen. She dies shortly after her eggs hatch, she devoted all of her strength to their survival.

Some Leopard Sharks have been tagged by Scripps Institution of Oceanography Researchers. Look for the orange or white tags near their dorsal fin.

Leopard Sharks: Spa Pregnancy

A popular La Jolla sight is Leopard Shark aggregation at La Jolla Shores! From June to about September every year, thousands of these docile shark mothers move to the calm warm waters of La Jolla Shores Beach to speed up their gestation process. The mother sharks can be seen in the gently  breaking waves and often in just a few feet of water as they soak up the warmth. At night, the mother Leopard Sharks take trips to hunt in La Jolla’s deep submarine, or underwater canyon. Warm water with food nearby makes La Jolla Shores Beach a great place for these pregnant mothers. Unlike most fish species, Leopard Shark moms hatch their eggs internally, and after 10-12 months, give birth to live young, called pups! 

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego