Way back at the turn of the millennium, when Y2K turned out to be nonsense, I escaped planes falling out of the sky to graduate in biology. Though my career has went slightly off-piste since then, down a double black diamond trail of economic development, in my heart I’m still a committed science geek. Whilst I am a massive fan of the theory of evolution (sorry, not sorry, creationists), I’m also impatient as hell, so when it comes to trying to advance humans I’m all for genetic engineering as I’m not willing to wait around for a few million years to improve the biology of human birth.
With ‘The Fly’ being one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films,
I thought I’d cobble together my own hypothetical gene splicer and steal from the animal kingdom to make our birthing process more palatable. After all, why the fork (sorry, watching too much ‘The Good Place’) have we evolved to have children by squeezing large 7lb objects through one of our smallest openings? And, come on, it’s an area of our bodies that should only be treated delightfully.
So, who in the animal kingdom have reproductive and birthing system better than humans? We’ll get to that. First of all, let’s start with those animals that we will be avoiding…
So, you probably think ducks are little cutie-pie creatures, swallowing down crumbs of bread at your local pond? WRONG. Prepare to be horrified. Three words to kick off with, ‘corkscrew’, ‘spiny’ and ‘penis’. Not something I’d want waved at me as part of a loving relationship. Still, it’s a true story. Ducks have evolved to a place where each year the males see their (corkscrew, spiny, 20cm long) penises drop off then re-grow, whereas the females have developed corkscrew vaginas, complete with dead-ends. This is to trick the males into dumping their sperm down one of the dead-ends if the females just aren’t that into them. Seems extreme. Perhaps there’s a future market in duck condoms, save all the faff? They would be called ‘prophylaquacktics’, obviously.
They are pregnant for TWO YEARS. I don’t think I need to say any more than that.
Lady octopuses get an atrocious deal in the lottery of animal kingdom pregnancies and births. As soon as they have conceived and laid their eggs, they sit there, motionless and don’t eat until the eggs are ready to hatch. Then when the youngsters hatch? Oh, yeah, the mother dies. I don’t know about you, but I checked out at the point where not eating was mentioned. I was 75% carbohydrate in both my pregnancies. Sorry octopuses, we don’t want your birthing practices.
To be fair, kangaroos could probably go in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ pile for this hypothetical gene splicing experiment. The females have two vaginas for fun and a bonus one for birthing only. Oh, and the males? They have a double headed…well you know. So either you’re putting kangaroos in the ‘yes’ pile due to the double the fun factor, or immediately in the ‘no’ pile due to the general weirdness of it all. You can decide for yourself which, there’s no judgement here.
Let’s move on now to the animals we are absolutely stealing some pregnancy and birth techniques from…
In one elephant pregnancy, an opossum could have been pregnant 52 times. Sign me up for a 14 day pregnancy please. There’d be barely any time for heartburn!
Here’s a species that is doing it right. The men carry and birth the children – SCORE. I can totally get on board with this. Personally, up to month 8 of pregnancy is fine, but both times the final 4 weeks was 24 hour heartburn, insomnia and a complete inability to get comfortable. And also constant peeing or thinking I had to. So if there’s an option here to hand all of this over to the guys from now on, excellent, let’s start gene splicing.
Here’s a smart animal. Female otters can utilise ‘delayed implementation’. This means, following conception they can decide when to implant the fertilised egg and kick off the pregnancy at a time to suit them. Now this would have been cool. I know I missed two weddings and an opportunity to be
a bridesmaid in a third due to being mahoosive with child. If only I could have picked when to get pregnant, my social calendar would have been so much better. Also, I’m a complete control freak, so this checks a lot of boxes for me!
We’ve all seen David Attenborough; you know what I’m going to tell you. Yes, this is another species where the males do the incubating and child rearing. However, did you know that when Daddy is busy doing this, that Mummy swans off with her girl penguin pals to do nothing but feast for the duration? Amazing. Bring on the carbs.
So, which animals would you choose to splice with? I think I might go for one part human, one part emperor penguin…and maybe a dash of kangaroo. Remember, we said no judging.