The folks over at National Geographic Channel have cooked up a Fantastic Voyage into the wombs of a Chihuahua, a Neapolitan Mastiff, a Golden Retriever, and a wolf. The one-hour birds-and-bees-of-dogs lesson is chock-full of facts about the influence of evolution and selective breeding on the enormous variety among dogs. But that information feels like an excuse for incredible imagery, including 4-D ultrasound movies of puppy embryos panting and running in the womb. You read that right.
One detail of dog gestation that did stick in my head—and seemed like the perfect metaphor for a scary mother poem or a sci fi film—is the fact that dogs and wolves can reabsorb embryos about half-way to term. It’s a stress response that allows them to reduce the size of a litter to better ensure the futures of surviving puppies.
“In the Womb: Dogs” airs on Sunday, January 4 (2009) at 8 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. (Sneak a peak below.) The in utero journeys of a house cat and a lion follow at 9 p.m.