Remember when mom told you to always look both ways before crossing the street? Eat your vegetables? Be home before dark? Moms are amazing. They nurture us, keep us out of trouble, and are always there to guide us. This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating all the moms out there, including Hawaii’s marine matriarchs.
Arguably the most prolific marine bond between mother and offspring is exemplified through Hawaii’s humpback whales. Giving birth to a single calf in a two year period, a mother humpback will raise its newborn calf to the surface for its first breath. From that moment on, she’ll protect, teach, and help prepare her calf for a lifetime of trans-Pacific migrations between Alaska and Hawaii. Navigating through a sea of danger, mother humpbacks are extremely diligent in warding off predators. It’s believed that mothers can communicate to their calf at near-inaudible levels.
Raising children can be overwhelming at times – even with eight arms. An octopus mom is kept busy with providing round-the-clock care for thousands of her eggs. She does everything from warding off intruders, cleaning the nest of debris, and pushing water over the eggs to provide oxygen. It’s an enduring process which lasts months, resulting in the passing of the mother as she gives life to a new generation of baby octopuses.
Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.. mommy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo. Sorry, couldn’t resist! Life for shark moms varies per species. For Hawaii’s grey reef sharks, a shark mom goes through a gestation period for approximately 11-12 months and will typically give birth to a litter of 3-6 shark pups. Once born, pups live independently without the need for parental supervision. At Maui Ocean Center, we’ve had the honor of witnessing grey reef sharks give birth within our Open Ocean exhibit. While most pups are released to the sea, a few temporarily reside in our Nursery Bay exhibit to help educate visitors on this fascinating developmental period in their lifetime.
“If only you knew what women go through during pregnancy!” We’ve heard this at some point in our lives. Well, the roles are reversed among seahorses where dad actually bears the babies. Shortly following a courtship dance, the male seahorse receives a deposit of mom’s eggs into his pouch, where thousands of eggs form and develop. Once the baby seahorses are ready to be born, dad undergoes a series of muscle contractions to expel the babies from his pouch.
As you may recall from my previous article on the Hawaiian sergeant fish, reef fish are just as fiery as any animal in the ocean when it comes to protecting their young. A number of fish species, like damselfish and triggerfish, will aggressively patrol and attack unwanted visitors – including our team of aquarists. When conducting exhibit maintenance, damselfish and triggerfish aren’t afraid to let our staff know to stay clear of their nest.
Whether you’re finned or finless, all Moms are fin-tastic. Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms out there, or as we say in Hawaii, Hauʻoli lā Makuahine!