Poor Dads – all of them. So often taken for granted, almost like the fixture that is just expected to always be there. They are always asked for kind words and to lend a hand, but seldom get it back. And so, in homage to all the dads in nature, this post presents some of the fathers in the animal kingdom who go the extra mile. Thanks guys!
Perhaps the most famous of all animal fathers are seahorses, which are known for being one of the only male animals in the world to get pregnant. The male sea horse tops the list because not only is he monogamous, but he is actually the one who gets pregnant and carries the kids (up to 1,000 babies at a time). The female deposits her eggs into his brood, then he fertilizes the eggs and carries them to term. On average though, the numbers are around 100-200The female lays hundreds of eggs inside the male, which he then helps fertilize himself during the process. However, before anyone nominates the male sea horse for Father of the Year, you might want to hold your horses (pun intended) — this dad has been known to eat a few of his offspring as well.
2. Hardhead Catfish
The hardheaded catfish doesn’t have such a thick skull when it comes to fatherhood. While he doesn’t get pregnant like a seahorse, he does put up to 48 of his fertilized eggs in his mouth and carries them with him for 60 days. This means they can’t eat until the eggs hatch. This can take two months or longer, meaning that the dads have to live off their own body fat for that long. (Now, no wise cracks from the moms reading this!)
3. Marsupial Frog
As the name suggests, the marsupial frog also carries his babies around in his brood pouch. While there are a few different species of marsupial frogs, perhaps the most impressive fathers are those that guard the eggs laid on the ground. When the eggs hatch, the ground will not provide enough moisture for the tadpoles, so he puts them in his brood pouch until they hop out as baby frogs.
4. Darwin’s Frog
While we’re on the subject of food: Darwin’s frog fathers safeguard their offspring inside their mouths. The female lays about thirty eggs, and the male guards the nest. After the tadpoles hatch, he scoops them into his vocal sac. From there, the tadpoles feed off their egg yolk, and once they grow legs, the father opens his mouth and lets them hop free.
5. Mimic Poison Frog
The mimic poison frog has a notable reputation for not only being a great father, but also being a great husband. As a matter of fact, it is the only amphibian to be certifiably monogamous. The female frog lays her eggs on leaves and those that hatch are then moved by the father into a tiny pool of water inside a bromeliad. Because there are not enough nutrients for the tadpoles to survive in these conditions, the male not only guards them, but watches for signs that the baby needs food. When he croaks, the mother comes by and lays an unfertilized egg in the pool of water as a source of nourishment for the baby.
6. Emperor Penguin
The movie made them famous, and made the penguin the hero of the Dad world. The emperor penguin breeds in Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth (72 degrees below Fahrenheit). After the female lays her egg, it’s the male’s job to keep it warm, meanwhile, after the trauma of penguin-birth the female takes a two-month feeding sabbatical. The male balances the egg on his feet in subzero weather, often forced to huddle together with other males for warmth until their chicks hatch. Emperor penguins not only watch the fertilized eggs, they go for months at a time in the freezing arctic without a meal. The fathers keep the eggs on their feet and covered with their bellies because contact with the sub-freezing ground can result in immediate death of the embryo inside. He stays like this for two months and by this time, he has already gone over 100 days without a meal. The female penguins generally return shortly after the eggs hatch, but until they arrive, the daddy manages to feed the youngsters with a substance produced in his esophagus. Only after the females return and the couple exchanges shifts does the male get to head to sea for a well-deserved meal.
7. Namaqua Sandgrouse
Namaqua Sandgrouses live in Africa’s southern deserts. During the incubation period, he sits on the nest at night and then the mother incubates the eggs during the day. The birds live in arid desert areas and the young chicks cannot make it to water, so the dad has to bring it to them, flying up to 50 miles a day to the nearest watering hole. He dips his belly in water every morning and his feathers absorb the water like a sponge, each feather can hold up to eight times its weight in water. He then returns to the nest where the chicks can drink the water straight from his feathers.
8. Greater Hornbill Owl
Most female birds are smaller than their male counterparts. For birds of prey, and especially for owls, this isn’t true. Female great horned owls are much larger than the males, and they’re the ones who guard the nests after they’re built. This leaves the male to spend all his time feeding three to five hungry mouths, one of which outweighs him. He can sometimes spend the entire night catching small animals to feed his family without eating something himself.
The rhea is a flightless South American bird about the same size as an emu. Each male can have up to twelve partners at a time, but the females never stay in place for very long, which means lots of work for the dads! The mothers do very little to care for their young, but the fathers incubate the eggs, guard the nests, and feed their young until they’re fully grown.
The jacana is also known as the “lily trotter,” thanks to its ability to “walk on water” by balancing on lily pads. Like the rheas, jacanas are very active fathers who not only incubate their nests but teach their babies about the basics of life. Known as lily trotters or Jesus birds for their ability to walk on water using plants like the lily pads, these little birds lay their nests on submerged plants and the male protects and incubates the eggs while the female finds more mates. If the eggs start to sink or otherwise become endangered, he will carry them to a new nesting site under his wing. Once they are born, he helps feed and care for the chicks until they can survive on their own. The female will only return if the something happens to the eggs and the male is therefore open to breed again.
11. Giant Water Bug
Insects aren’t generally considered to be the most active parents in the world, but the male giant water bug is certainly an exception. He totes the entire brood of eggs –often up to 150 at a time– on his back until they hatch. The female simply lays the eggs and then glues them to daddy before she takes off, leaving him to rear the youngsters. During the three weeks he carries the eggs, he protects them and takes time to dry them out of the water so they don’t get moldy.
There are twenty-three species of marmoset, and though all marmosets are small animals, the fathers play a huge role in rearing their babies. Marmoset mothers generally have twins, and the babies together can weigh up to 25% of the mother’s body weight. Because having babies is so taxing on female marmosets, it’s up to the fathers to take care of their families. They spend much of their time feeding their mates and teaching their babies about the world, and they can even help deliver the babies when they are born.