In honor of Father’s Day, I found the article: The Animal Kingdom’s Most Devoted Dads. It lists their top 9 picks for the best fathers of the animal world. In general, birds seem to be the group with the most determined dads, but there are some other fantastic candidates as well. The aforementioned article is nice, but they make you click through 21 slides so I would recommend just sticking with my summary below.
1. Marmosets: The fathers take care of their offspring after they are born. In addition, unlike males from other species that try to mate with as many females as possible, marmoset males seem too dedicated to their young to realize there are even other females around. In one study, researchers exposed the scent of ovulating females to father marmosets thinking that it would spike their testosterone levels. Surprisingly, the males did not seem to react hormonally at all!
2. Seahorses: Male seahorses are actually the ones who get pregnant. Moreover, these animals are monogamous and mate for life. I found it interesting in this blurb that the fathers can monitor the salt levels within their pouch. (Maybe another post for another day.) For more information on seahorses, check out this Bloggerheadseaturtle post: Now You See(horse) Me, Now You Don’t, which includes a link to a video of males giving birth and how they can camouflage so well.
3. Waterbugs: The females apparently glue their 100+ eggs to the father’s back. I think this is kind of creepy looking and cool at the same time. It may look odd, but it allows the father waterbug (AKA toe-biter or alligator tick) to monitor the condition of the eggs at all times and prevent fungal infections. I thought that this VIDEO was the best at showing the mating behavior of waterbugs and how the female actually attaches her eggs to the male’s back. The male can end up carrying eggs from several females.
4. Rheas: Not going to lie, I had never heard of this bird before, but their breeding behavior sounds really interesting. Neither females nor males are monogamous. However, the males are the ones who build the nests to entice potential partners and then stays behind to guard and incubate the eggs while the females frolic off to find more mates.
5. Frogs: Some members of the family Microhylidae have the fathers fertilize and care for the offspring, and the mothers disappear after they are done laying eggs. The fathers will transport their froglets, yes froglets, on their backs. I thought it was interesting that the froglets decide to jump off the father at different points. Researchers stated that this likely helps lower food competition and increase genetic diversity.
6. Spotted sandpipers: This species is polyandrous (female mates with several males). Evidently, the females prepare a nesting area and persuade a male to mate with her. As soon as she lays her eggs, she leaves to find another mate.
7. Penguins: While the mother penguins are at sea hunting fish, males fast in order to take care of the egg and keep it warm. However, if the mother does not return before the baby hatches, the fathers can also temporarily feed the baby by producing a “curd-like substance.” Since fasting is such an integral aspect of the incubation process and survival rate, females seek out the fattest fathers-to-be. Females can apparently tell how fat and desirable a male is depending on his mating noises.
8. Emus: Another great polyandrous bird example. Again, the females leave soon after laying their eggs to look for another mate. This means that the father incubates and cares for the eggs the entire time before they hatch. What I thought was rather remarkable was the fact that the fathers will continue to care for their chicks for up to TWO years after they hatch. That seems like quite a long time for an avian species to remain with their offspring.
9. Bat-eared foxes: These animals are monogamous, but the father takes an extremely active role in parenting compared to many other animals. The males will spend equal or more time rearing, grooming, and/or guarding their offspring.
I hope everyone enjoyed learning more about parenting dynamics in a couple different species! Even though mothers usually end up taking on the majority of rearing responsibilities, remember dads play an important part too! And, without them, the species listed above might have died off a long time ago. On that note, Happy Father’s Day! Way to go Dads of all species!