Aug 3, 2015

These 20 Incredible Images Reveal the Secret World of Animals Inside the Womb


By on Monday, August 03, 2015

National Geographic’s In The Womb: Animals made TV history in 2006 when an animal 4D ultrasound scan was broadcast for the first time. Using a mix of photography and digital technology, producer Peter Chinn and his crew were able to trace the gestational journey of the growing embryos in groundbreaking visual detail. The resulting images are remarkably realistic; cracking open many an embryonic enigma, they teach us much about the unique utero passage of creatures great and small. And in the animal kingdom – where a mini marsupial’s most important hop is from womb to pouch and a cannibalizing shark embryo can devour its siblings – no two journeys are ever the same.

Dolphin

When a dolphin calf emerges after a year in the womb – tail first so as to stay afloat – it has, amazingly, already learned how to swim inside the uterus. This literal water baby begins to paddle around inside its mother at just nine weeks, using a second set of rear flippers that recede before the onset of labor.

Cheetah

In the predatory world of the cheetah, cubs must be protected from birth. The pregnant female will scan the landscape for a secluded spot in which to deliver, and the newborns arrive with a very distinctive disguise. To far-off predators, a cheetah cub’s fluffy mohawk allows it to pass for the ferocious honey badger.

Dog

The utero journey of man’s best friend takes around 63 days, and after six weeks, the pool ball-sized pups begin to pant in the womb. Furthermore, if a pregnancy is in trouble, the bitch can do something remarkable to save her litter: assimilate the defective fetus back into her body.

Golden Retriever

A Golden Retriever pup begins life unrecognizable as a single egg. Following implantation, this egg separates into three groups, which will eventually become the pup’s different organ systems. The breed’s gorgeous golden coat is formed from the ectoderm cells and starts to develop at around two months.

Chihuahua

At just a month old, this little pup will already flaunt a set of pointy Chihuahua ears, and over the next fortnight it will develop paws, claws and fur. At the end of their nine-week gestation period, puppies emerge in an amniotic sac, which is pierced open by the mother, allowing the newborn to breathe.

Corn Snake

From inside their leathery cocoons, baby snakes grow something very special: an egg tooth that allows them to hack their way out of their shell’s membranous confines. The newborn snake then greets the world by sticking its tongue out, taking a first taste of its new outside home.

Lemon Shark

Sharks reproduce through different means, according to their species, with most nurturing their eggs internally. Others, however, have a more marine beginning completely outside of their mother’s body, hatching from a sack in the sea.

Tiger Shark

Mackerel sharks – such as the great white – make less than adorable babies, and in the womb of a sand tiger shark it’s survival of the fittest. Here, the first embryo to develop a strong set of gnashers will use them to devour any neighboring embryos, until only the most ferocious baby cannibal remains.

Emperor Penguin

Unlike other penguins, the statuesque emperor penguin chooses to breed in the harsh conditions of winter. After laying the egg, the female passes the mantle over to her male counterpart, which spends two months incubating his offspring without stopping for a single meal – thus reducing his body mass by as much as a third.

Bird

Baby birds don’t start to develop in the egg until the temperature is just right – between 100 and 112 °F, to be exact. To help them along, then, the mother sheds the feathers on her stomach to create a “brood patch” – a warm, vascularized area of skin prepped for incubation.

Kitten

After just 15 days in the womb a baby kitten begins to grow its tail, which continues to curve outward throughout the pregnancy. Once a month has gone by, the fetus will have a pair of closed cat eyes, and at five weeks it starts to develop its set of claws.

Kitten

The cat fetus remains furless until week six, when a sleek coat begins to grow. And at around the nine-week mark the kitten will have reached full term, having stretched to more than the length of a dollar bill.

 Lion

It’s almost indistinguishable in its first week of embryonic development, but a lion cub will take roughly twice as long to mature in the womb as its diminutive relative, the domestic cat. Then when the little Simbas emerge after 16 weeks, their fur carries black markings – similar to those of other big cats – that fade as they get older.

Bats

Female bats are ingenious when it comes to manipulating their pregnancy. They can store the male’s live sperm for months, delaying fertilization and development of an embryo in order to give birth in a more favorable season – when there’s more food for everyone.

Polar Bear

Although a polar bear pregnancy lasts for eight months, only half of that time is spent actually developing the embryo. After fertilization, the egg divides into a mass of cells called a blastocyst, which then lies suspended in the womb for four months before finally embedding in the uterine lining and continuing on its journey.

Possum

This bushy-tailed marsupial has among the very briefest gestation spells of any mammal. Baby possums spend as little as two weeks in the womb before entering the world completely bald and no bigger than a bumblebee.

Horse

Equine embryos spend around 49 weeks in the womb and undergo something of a growth spurt during the last three months – when the foal will grow from the size of a small kitten to that of a large dog

Red Kangaroo

It’s hard to believe that this tiny little joey will develop into a towering six-foot red kangaroo. A kangaroo pregnancy lasts just over a month and a half, and once the newborn emerges – unable to see and just over an inch long – it climbs immediately into its mother’s pouch for a long feeding session.

Parasitic Wasp

The parasitic wasp has a beginning so gruesome that it is credited with having inspired a scene in the 1979 horror movie Alien. The female lays her egg in an unsuspecting caterpillar, where it hatches and begins to secrete a deadly virus. After developing fully, the baby wasp then bites its way out of the now incapacitated caterpillar and flies away.

Asian Elephant

Asian elephants are reproductively unique: females have a double helping of ovulation hormones and an extra-long pregnancy period. And so it is that after 21 months in the womb, the clever calves arrive ready to walk with the herd, even if it’s another fortnight before they’re able to rein in those wobbly trunks.

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