If you’re having one of those days when nothing seems to go right and maybe you’re feeling like things couldn’t get much worse, well, think again…
You could be an emperor penguin chick! For reasons best known to themselves, emperor penguins choose just about the most remote and inhospitable place on the planet to bring their young into the world – the Antarctic in the middle of winter. You’d hatch out in a snow blizzard onto solid ice – but at least you’d have your parents’ warm pouch to snuggle up in – but don’t get too comfortable in there, because you’ll soon be too big for it and get turned out into the cold. The best you can do is to hunker down with your fellow chicks to keep warm and be extremely patient, because din-dins won’t be appearing anytime soon – you’ll have to wait for mama to get back from her 30 odd mile trek across the frozen wastelands to bring you some fish for your supper! After that, mum and dad will head off without so much as a word, leaving you to fend for yourself!
It might be a bit of a shock to be suddenly thrust into the world, but none more so than if you were a baby giraffe – before you even take your first breath, you face a massive 2 metre (6ft) drop from mum onto terra very firma – ouch! OK you think, best get to my feet; and as you proudly stand up for the first time you see mum coming over to congratulate you – hang on a minute though, instead of saying well done, she’s kicked you back down again! This seems to happen with alarming regularity – apparently, she’s helping you to learn to get up quickly and strengthen your muscles – tough love!
If you think that’s bad, then how about opening your eyes for the first time only to find yourself buried alive? That’s the start in life you’d have as a baby turtle. Once you’ve gone to all the effort of eating your way out of your egg shell, you find yourself in an underground world of sand – so your first priority is to dig yourself out. Next delight in store for you is a sandy slalom course down to the water’s edge – objects to avoid are: swooping birds, nipping crabs and snapping lizards. And no breathing a sigh of relief when you make it to the sea, because you now need to swerve the sharks, dolphins and meat-eating fish – it’s just as well you’ve got that hard shell!
Jump to it quick if you’re a baby rabbit waiting to see mum, because you’ll only get a fleating glimpse of her each day. She will hop by to give you some fast food before leaping off again, leaving you to your own devices. You might be thinking she’s not exactly showing great parenting skills, but mum knows best, because she’s trying to keep her much stronger smell (that predators pick up on) away from you and keep you smelling safe and sweet!
You’d better peck fast if you’re a hooded grebe chick, because only the first chick to hatch gets to be cared for by mum and dad. If you’re second past the post, then it’s so long, farewell, because your parents only look after one chick at a time. Your only hope is to co-ordinate your birth with your sibling, because if you both hatch out together, mum and dad will agree to care for the two of you – so save that sibling rivalry for later!
If you were a baby harp seal you might think they’ve got it kooshy, having mum around 24/7, feeding you rich, creamy milk and snuggling up to keep you toasty warm – but don’t get too snug there, because you only get 12 days of this luxury, before mum decides to slide off into the ocean without so much as a backward glance! OK, no problem, you think, I’ll just follow her – oh no you won’t, well not for another 6 weeks at least, because that’s how long it takes before you’ll be able to swim. In the meantime, you find yourself on a rather extreme diet!
You wouldn’t usually get to enjoy any paternal nurturing if you were a young fish – when it comes to their eggs, most fish parents adopt a ‘lay and forget’ policy; but if you were a baby of a mouthbrooder fish you would get to spend your time as an egg safely inside mum’s mouth! Her devotion doesn’t end there either, because once you’re hatched, she will continue to protect you by taking you back into her mouth if danger lurks – so all seems tranquil – but beware! The cuckoo catfish will try to sneak her eggs into mum’s mouth too – these will hatch before you and are likely to view you as their first meal and as mum can’t tell the difference, you’d better get out of there quick!
The idea of becoming a queen bee and ruling your very own hive has a certain appeal, but it definitely has a sting in the tail too! As a bee larva, you’ll have been specially selected to be fed royal jelly to help you develop into a true queen – but you won’t be alone and once you’re all hatched, the gloves are off (and the stings are out), because it’s a fight for the throne, with only one remaining monarch emerging as victorious! – a true power struggle!
One thing you might not be expecting would be for your parents to lick their lips when looking at you! If you’re a baby Komodo dragon, you’ll likely be seen as a handy snack by mum and dad! Try shinning up a tree until they spot something else for dinner instead! If you’re still a bit nervous that they might mistake you for a tasty treat, then you could always have a good roll around in poop – the smell of that oughta put them off alright! Maybe salad tonight then….
So there you go, your day could always be worse!