Animals That Give Birth To The Most Babies At The Same Time

The conversation must have been had, somewhere in a reality TV production office circa 2009: "How do we beat the Octo-Mom?" Ratings, after all, are a hard thing to come by, and like the old saying goes, "if you can't beat 'em, out-reproduce 'em."

In terms of sheer numbers, she wouldn't have been difficult to beat in the field of spawning. Nature, in all its horrifying, John-Carpenter-practical-effects splendor, is positively bursting at the seams with various critters capable of dropping a few dozen rugrats in a single go. But which is the most ambitious? What animal squeezes out the largest number of progeny all at once?

Well, that depends on how you look at it. As you're probably aware, reproduction is a multifaceted and uniformly disgusting miracle of life that comes in many shapes and sizes across the evolutionary scope. Fish, for example, pretty regularly lay hundreds, even thousands of eggs in a spawning season. According to National Geographic, the championship title goes to the ocean sunfish, a 5,000 pound behemoth that's estimated to lay 300 million eggs in a season. The takeaway here: the ocean would basically be nothing but a wet pile of sunfish if their eggs didn't get all first-act-of-Finding-Nemo'd so frequently.

And not one of them does the honorable thing by getting married first

Meanwhile, in the category of mammals, things are relatively calm. There isn't like, a species of cat that's pushing out nine figure litters, no matter the evidence to the contrary at your aunt's house.

Science Focus brings up a fun fact — no, an actual fun fact. There are nipples involved. Apparently, a good rule of thumb when trying to calculate the average litter size that a mammal can be expected to produce is to count their nipples and divide by two. Generally speaking, a mammal's litter will max out at the same number of nipples that they have, not taking into account hormone irregularities or sets of triplets/quadruplets/etceterlets.

And no critter needs more goin' out pasties than the tailless tenrec of Madagascar, nature's answer to the question "what if we stuck a hedgehog and a possum in one of those Brundlefly teleporters together?" With between 21 and 29 nipples a piece, they give birth to an average litter of 15 little tenrecs, but can bump those numbers into the low 30s at times. Right behind them: the naked mole rat, which has been noted to birth up to 33 baby naked mole rats in one go. If your only takeaway here is that naked mole rats have a ton of nipples, then today was not wasted.