By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
Fathers of the Animal KingdomSigmund Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Although they don’t get any recognition, there are some stellar examples of fathers who are doing a remarkable job of parenting in the animal world.
The seahorse would be at the top of anyone’s list of great animal fathers. He is actually morphologically specialized to take care of the babies. The female inserts the eggs into the male’s brood pouch where he keeps them for 10-30 days depending on the species. The male’s belly swells as the 10-300 eggs mature. The labor and delivery can take several hours and after the babies hide in the grasses, the daddy will return to the same female to mate again.In the insect world, the giant water bug works hard to care for his young. After mating, the female attaches approximately 150 eggs on the father’s back. He does deep knee bends to aerate them, strokes them to keep them clean, and leaves the water to remove parasites. When the eggs hatch, he kicks them off his back.
While the female red fox stays in the den with her kits keeping them warm and fed, the father must hunt and provide her with food every four to six hours. After three months, the father brings food for the kits and hides it beneath leaves and brush. He teaches them to sniff and seek out the food, thus laying the groundwork for hunting in adult life.A male sea catfish gives up eating while he carries eggs the size of marbles in his mouth. For a month, he lives off his body fat and continues for another few weeks to feed his young as they grow.
Some species of frogs and toads also carry eggs in their mouths and do not eat. Some types embed the eggs under the skin on their backs or legs. The pouched frog carries eggs similar to the way marsupials do.The arctic lumpsucker fish may not be beautiful, but he is devoted to overseeing the eggs that the female lays. He attaches himself near his offspring with special suction cups on his body. From there, he defends the eggs and attacks any predators who threaten them.
March of the Penguins, a popular movie produced in 2005, masterfully presents the family life of emperor penguins. After an arduous walk to their mating grounds, the female lays the egg and gives it to the father to protect while she marches back to the sea to eat for two months to replenish her depleted nutrition. The father holds the egg between his feet keeping it warm and safe from the harsh elements until it hatches.Other animal species including the arowana, rhea, wolf, and marmoset have unique ways in which the males carry out their roles as father. Mother Nature has fascinating ways of insuring the survival of every species.
(Source: National Geographic News Website)