Sometimes animal dads can get a bad rap. For many species, the male parent is involved at the beginning of the process and does not stick around to help raise the offspring. But some animal fathers are awesome! Today, we wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the hard-working, uniquely adapted animal fathers that keep their young healthy and thriving. Three cheers for Dad!
After the female emperor penguin lays a single egg, Dad takes over. While his mate goes out in search of food, a male emperor penguin will keep his egg warm by balancing it on his feet and keeping it covered with a feathered fold of skin called a brood pouch. For as long as two months, the male emperor penguin will eat nothing while he braves the harsh Antarctic climate. If the chick hatches before the female returns, Dad can even produce a milky substance from a gland in his digestive track to make sure the chick stays fed.
The male seahorse is not only a great dad, but he’s a good dancer too! The elaborate seahorse courtship dance ends with the female depositing her eggs into a pouch located on the male’s stomach, which can hold as many as 2,000 eggs. The eggs hatch inside the pouch, and the male seahorse regulates the salinity of the water in his pouch to keep the babies healthy. When they are ready to come out 10-25 days later, dad will experience muscular contractions to help force the ‘fry’ into the world.
Normally found in the cold open oceans, lumpsucker fish dads head towards the shore at the beginning of mating season to prepare the perfect nest in a crevice or depression on the sea floor. When a female arrives, she will lay some of her eggs in a nest that she fancies and then move on. The males will then use the adhesive suction discs on their bellies to anchor themselves near the eggs, protecting them from predators, and waving water over them to ensure that they get enough oxygen to develop properly.
After a litter of red foxes is born, the mother will stay in her den for a month while dad goes out to find food for the entire family. He will bring back food every four to six hours until the young are old enough that the mother can leave the den. Once the kits venture out into the world, the father will play with them regularly, and continue to provide food until they are about three months old, when it’s time for the little ones to start finding their own. Papa fox doesn’t leave the kits completely on their own, however. To teach them to forage, he will hide food close to the den, covering it with leaves and twigs to make them work for their supper!
Because Northern Jacanas are birds that live in fresh water marshes and ponds, they make their nests on floating vegetation and collections of leaves and stems. The father is the caretaker of his eggs, which he tucks under his wings. Because of their watery habitats, northern jacana nests can sometimes begin to sink into the water. If that happens, the male will pick the eggs up and carry them to a new location. The jacana dad cares for and protects his chicks until they take flight about four weeks after hatching.
Good dads are famous for protecting their offspring, but the Male Darwin frog takes things to a whole new level. The father Darwin swallows his tadpoles (as many as 20 at a time!) so that he can incubate them in his vocal sacs. Once the baby froglets have fully developed, he spits them out!
Wolverines have generally been assumed to be solitary creatures, so you might not have expected them to show up on our list of great wildlife dads. But wide-ranging wolverine dads make sure to be around for their kids, even when they have to travel. Male wolverines might cover hundreds of miles each month, but they make a point of visiting their mates and their nursing kits along the way. Researchers have even seen evidence that some wolverine fathers will take an interest in their older offspring, leading them out into the countryside to teach them how to survive on their own.
Since North American beavers mate for life, Papa beaver is sure to play a major role in caring for his young. With two to six newborns each year, plus yearlings who will live with their family groups until they go off on their own at around 2 years old, the male beaver is committed to helping feed and protect his growing family. In one case, a California beaver who lost his mate to infection continued to care for his three kits on his own, repairing their home, gathering food, and even teaching to kits how to dive.