Is there an animal that has a worse childbirth than humans?
Answered by: Alex Cooper,Wildlife Enthusiast
I’m going to approach this from a different direction, since there are already answers mentioning the female hyena and the “pseudopenis” she gives birth out of, and the kiwi’s huge eggs.
I’ll add the porcupine. The quills are soft at birth and don’t harden until exposed to air. This makes things considerably easier for the mother, but only if porcupettes (yes, adorable name) are born facing the right way. If little Peter Quill comes out backwards, the mother will not have a good time.
Think of it like pulling out a barbed arrow designed to stick in your flesh. Or don’t, if you don’t want that mental picture. (Too late, I suppose. Sorry.)
Those are some of the worst childbirths in terms of discomfort, but how about the worst in terms of… morality?
The Hunger Games — Australian Edition
Everyone loves Tasmanian devils, the cute, cuddly critters that fight each other all the time, get facial tumours, and basically hold their mates hostage during courtship because they’re scared of Mrs Devil finding someone better. (Sadly, female devils will often stay with abusive partners… better the devil you know.)
Well, hard times breed hard marsupials, and devils come into the world fighting for their life from their very first breath.
They don’t look particularly intimidating as babies:
Say that to my face, you flamin’ galah!
The female gives birth to 20–30 (and occasionally as many as 50, according to National Geographic) tiny pups, or “joeys,” who immediately crawl their way from the birth canal to the pouch, where delicious nipples await.
Once a joey latches on, the nipple expands, ensuring that the pup remains attached to a regular supply of nutritious milk for the next 100+ days.
The trouble is, Mrs Devil only possesses four nipples.
Life-giving milk is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, so there’s a mad dash for dairy delights as soon as the pups are born.
The four winners of the (literal) Hunger Games are set up nicely for the next few months, and they’ll quickly develop in the safety of the pouch.
The unlucky losers will die.
It may sound callous from our own perspectives of morality, but nature doesn’t care that lots of offspring die, as long as enough healthy ones survive to breeding age. (If the devil pups took turns and shared like polite little critters, none of them would get enough milk.)
This method weeds out the weak, sickly offspring right from the start; only the strongest, healthiest and most ruthless devils survive to have a shot of passing on their genes.
Don’t be fooled by a cute appearance; this is a heartless bastard.