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11 Amazing Animal Births Caught on Video

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Modern technology has given us plenty of gifts (and plenty of gifs), but few of them can compare to the awe-inspiring magic of watching wild animals give birth to their adorable offspring from the comfort of our very own homes. Warning: Some of these videos get a little ... gooey.

1. Panda

The National Zoo loves to set up live cameras when they know one of their animals is expecting, and “celebrity” giant panda Mei Xiang was no exception. Panda pregnancies are notoriously hard to diagnose (they’re also hard to make happen), but Mei Xiang demonstrated classic signs of an actual pregnancy for weeks, and she delivered in a big way with the birth of a tiny cub on August 23. While her butter-stick-sized baby was followed by a stillborn twin the next day, all signs point to a healthy first cub.

2. Gorilla

The Prague Zoo trained a live camera on their beloved gorilla mom Kijivu when she gave birth to a tiny baby boy last December. The sixth gorilla born at the zoo (and the fourth for Kijivu and her mate Richard) entered the world in textbook fashion, with his mom giving birth with jaw-dropping efficiency and attention. Baby gorillas typically weigh 3 to 4 pounds at birth—half the weight of human babies.

3. Polar bears

Speaking of efficiency and attention, just imagine giving birth to two squealing polar bear cubs without assistance. That’s just what mama bear Huggies, of the Dutch Zoo Ouwehands Dierenpark, did in 2011 with her little cubs Siku and Sesi. Sure, it sounds like the babies are screaming bloody murder, but that’s just them expressing happiness at finally joining the world (we think). Here's a fun fact about polar bear reproduction: Females are induced ovulators—it's intercourse that causes their ovaries to release an egg.

4. Elephant

The Prague Zoo broke out their live camera equipment again this February when it came time for elephant mama Donna to give birth to the zoo’s very first baby. A relatively “quick” delivery (around five hours) ended with the breathtaking birth of little Sita. Research shows that elephants stay pregnant for 680 days—the longest gestational period of any creature on earth—to allow babies' brains to develop enough that they can survive from birth.

5. Giraffe

Elephant births are impressive enough, but even they can’t compare to giraffe births—especially when they take place in full view of an entire zoo full of gawkers. The Memphis Zoo welcomed baby Kofi back in August of 2008, and his birth to mom Marilyn is one of the most amazing live births ever captured on video. In just four and a half minutes, it shows the entire thing, and while there are some very tense moments, it pays off big time. Fun fact: Pregnant giraffes often return to the calving ground where they were born to give birth themselves.

6. Tiger

If you’re ready to really get in there, Tiger Canyons offers up a long look at tigress Shadow as she gives birth to multiple cubs at some very close angles. (A typical tiger litter is two or three cubs, which weigh about 2 pounds each.) The brainchild of controversial conservationist John Varty, Tiger Canyons is a Bengal tiger “re-wilding” project started back in 2000. While his methods have been criticized, Varty's ability to capture stunning live birth video is unparalleled.

7. Black bear

Though you can’t see too much when it comes to Hope the black bear’s live birth from back in 2010, what the video lacks in clear visuals it more than makes up for with boggling veracity. Mom Lily didn’t give birth to baby Hope in a zoo or on a private reserve—she gave birth in her own den in Ely, Montana, one that was outfitted with a camera by the Wildlife Research Institute in order to continue their ongoing study of Lily and her clan. Born in winter, the cubs are blind and helpless at birth and stay in the den until spring. They'll stick with mom for two years before striking off on their own.

8. Hippo

The San Diego Zoo welcomed a river hippo calf back in January of 2011 in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it delivery. Much like the delivery of baby giraffe Kofi, hippo mom Funani gave birth to little Adhama in front of a large crowd of onlookers, none of which seemed to bother her or the bobbing calf in the slightest. Momma hippos can give birth in the water or on land, but if the baby is born in the water, the mother must push it to the surface to breathe—newborns can only hold their breath for about 40 seconds (which increases to 30 minutes as adults).

9. Dolphin

Hawaiian dolphin mom Keo gave birth to her very first calf back in September of last year in an environment she must have been quite comfortable with—she too was born and raised at Waikoloa Village’s Dolphin Quest. With trainers at the ready to help and record, the star steadily delivered baby Hali'a, the first second-generation dolphin born at the facility, and reportedly a star from the moment she first started swimming. Humans assisted this birth, but did you know that dolphins are also available to assist human births?

10. Lion

The Bristol Zoo had a very good Christmas Eve back in 2010, a holiday marked by the birth of two critically endangered Asiatic lion cubs. It was the first birth for mom Shiva, who gave the zoo its first lion cubs in over a decade when she delivered male Jayendra (“Jay” for short) and female Kalyana (“Kaly” for short). Two years later, she had yet another set of twins, males Kamran and Ketan. A lion's gestation period is 3.5 months, and litters are between one and six cubs. Sadly, in the wild, 60 to 70 percent of cubs die before they make it to a year.

11. Seahorse

Seahorses are an extreme rarity in the animal kingdom—they’re one of the very few species in which the male both incubates the eggs and then actually gives birth to their offspring. Their birthing is serious business: Each delivery can spawn up to 1800 babies. While we don’t know any particulars about this seahorse daddy, we do know he’s a champion.

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NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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Joe Raedle, Getty Images
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Animals
10 Things You Might Not Know About Grizzly Bears
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Ursus arctos horribilis is better known by the more casual term of grizzly bear. These massive, brown-haired predators have a reputation as one of nature’s most formidable killing machines. Standing up to 8 feet tall and weighing 800 pounds, these fierce mammals have captivated—and frightened—humans for centuries. Keep your distance and read up on these facts about their love for munching moths, eating smaller bears, and being polar-curious.

1. THEY’RE ACTUALLY PRETTY LIGHT EATERS.

Grizzlies—more accurately, North American brown bears—are strong enough to make a meal out of whatever they like, including moose, elk, and bison. Despite their reputation for having carnivorous appetites, their diet also consists of nuts, berries, fruits, and leaves. They’ll even eat mice. The gluttony doesn’t kick in until they begin to exhibit hyperphagia, preparing for winter hibernation by chomping down enough food to gain up to three pounds a day.

2. THEY USE “CPR” TO GET AT YOUR FOOD.

A grizzly bear eats fruit in Madrid, Spain
Dani Pozo, AFP/Getty Images

More than 700 grizzlies live in or near Yellowstone National Park, which forces officials to constantly monitor how park visitors and the bears can peacefully co-exist. Because bears rummaging in food containers can lead to unwanted encounters, the park’s Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center tests trash cans and coolers to see if they’re bear-resistant. (Nothing is truly bear-proof.) Often, a bear will use “CPR,” or jumping on a canister with its front legs, in order to make the lid pop off. Containers that can last at least 60 minutes before being opened can be advertised by their manufacturers as being appropriate for bear-inhabited environments.

3. THEY CAN CLIMB TREES.

It's a myth that grizzlies can't climb trees. Though their weight and long claws make climbing difficult [PDF], and they need support from evenly-spaced branches, grizzlies can travel vertically if they choose to.

4. THEY’LL EAT OTHER BEARS.

Two grizzly bears play in a pool at a zoo in France
Jean-Francois Monier, AFP/Getty Images

In addition to being omnivorous, grizzlies can also be classified as cannibals. They’ve been spotted eating the carcasses of black bears in Canada. Calling it a “bear-eat-bear world,” officials at Banff National Park in Alberta said the grizzlies are “opportunistic” and more than willing to devour black bears—sometimes just one-fifth their size—if the occasion calls for it. And it’s not just black bears: One study on bear eating habits published in 2017 recorded a 10-year-old male eating a 6-year-old female brown bear.

5. THEY LOVE MOTHS.

Although grizzlies enjoy eating many insects, moths are at the top of the menu. Researchers have observed that bears are willing to climb to alpine heights at Montana’s Glacier National Park in order to feast on the flying appetizers. Grizzlies will turn over rocks and spend up to 14 hours in a day devouring in excess of 40,000 moths.

6. A PAIR OF THEM ONCE LIVED ON WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS.

A grizzly bear appears at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenseburg, Colorado
John Moore, Getty Images

In what would be considered an ill-advised decision, explorer Zebulon Pike decided to gift his friend President Thomas Jefferson with two grizzly cubs in 1807. Jefferson reluctantly accepted them and kept them in a cage near the north entrance to the White House, and later re-gifted the cubs to museum operator Charles Willson Peale. Sadly, one of them got shot after getting too aggressive with Peale’s family.

7. THEY CAN RUN FASTER THAN USAIN BOLT.

The bears we see in fiction or lazing about in the wild tend to look cumbersome and slow, as most anything weighing nearly a half-ton would. But in a land race, even Olympic champions would be on the losing end. Grizzlies can reportedly run 35 mph, and sustain speeds of up to 28 mph for two miles, faster than Usain Bolt’s 27.78 miles per hour stride (which he can only sustain for a few seconds).

8. THEY MATE WITH POLAR BEARS.

A grizzly bear is shown swimming at a pool in an Illinois zoo
Scott Olson, Getty Images

In parts of Alaska and Canada where grizzlies and polar bears converge, there are sometimes rare sightings of what observers call “grolar bears” or “pizzlies.” With large heads and light-colored fur, they’re a hybrid superbear birthed from some interspecies mating. Typically, it’s male grizzlies who roam into those territories, finding female polar bears to cozy up with. Researchers believe climate change is one reason the two are getting together.

9. THEY KNOW HOW TO COVER THEIR TRACKS.

When it comes to intellect, grizzlies may not get all the same publicity that birds and whales do, but they’re still pretty clever. The bears can remember hotspots for food even if it’s been 10 years since they last visited the area; some have been observed covering tracks or obscuring themselves with rocks and trees to avoid detection by hunters.

10. THEY’RE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET.

A grizzly bear and her cub walk in Yellowstone National Park
Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images

For 42 years, grizzlies at Yellowstone occupied the endangered species list. That ended in 2017, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that a rise in numbers—from 150 in the 1970s to more than 700 today—meant that conservation efforts had been successful. But overall, the grizzly population is still struggling: Fewer than 2000 remain in the lower 48 states, down from 50,000 two centuries ago.

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