When it comes to parenting in the animal kingdom, most of us tend to assume that it is the mothers who take care of their offspring. While it is undeniably true that mothers play the lead role in most cases, several amazing animal fathers deserve recognition, too. Many animal dads play an active role in nurturing their young, protecting them from all danger, and taking responsibility for their upbringing in unique ways.
Here is a look at some of the coolest and most devoted fathers in the animal kingdom that you may not be aware of.
1. Seahorse (Hippocampus)
The male seahorse is one of the most fascinating creatures of nature and not just because they look unique. This small marine fish in the genus Hippocampus is also famous because it is the male of the species that become pregnant, not the female. This is because the male seahorse has a special brood pouch where the female deposits her eggs.
During the pregnancy period, the male seahorse nourishes the babies with a hormone known as prolactin. The male then fertilizes and incubates the eggs for 45 days until the babies are born as full-on tiny seahorses. A male seahorse can, in fact, can give birth to 2,500 babies. Unfortunately, only 0.5% of their offspring survive. However, that doesn’t take away the remarkable role the father seahorse plays in bringing up the babies.
2. Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia)
The golden lion tamarins are very special fathers. Also known as the golden marmoset, the dads of this species are known to carry their infants on their backs all day long once they are about two weeks old. The mother comes in every once in a while to tend to the baby for three to four hours every day.
In between feedings, though, the dad takes the responsibility of carrying the baby on his back and keeping them engaged while the mother rests. The golden lion tamarin dads continue to carry the infants until they are six to seven weeks old. Furthermore, they even peel and mash bananas and hand-feed them to their baby when they begin to eat soft food.
3. Giant Water Bug (Belostomatidae)
The giant water bug of Japan might not be beautiful to look at, but it is a surprisingly strong insect and a ferocious hunter. By injecting their prey with toxins, they can paralyze them within seconds. Apart from being fierce predators, though, giant water bugs are also extremely good and caring fathers.
The male insects of the species carry the fertilized eggs until they hatch. Interestingly, the female lays the eggs on the wings of the males who then carry them around for about a week. The male giant water bug can carry as many as 150 eggs on its back at a time and protects his offspring from any harm with great dedication.
In some subfamilies of this insect, the eggs are laid on the ground. Even there, it is the males who guard them actively. One can thus safely say that male giant water bugs are incredibly great dads.
4. Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii)
Native to the forest streams of Chile and Argentina, Darwin's frog is a small species of frog named after renowned naturalist Charles Darwin who discovered it in 1834 during his voyage around the world. The frog has a distinctive look and has evolved to appear a bit like a leaf.
Darwin’s frogs present an unusual form of parental care where the female first lays several large eggs on the moist ground and the male looks over them until they are nearly ready to hatch. Once the embryos are developed enough to start moving, the father frog swallows the eggs and makes them slide into his vocal sac. The eggs then remain in the sac for about two months until they are ready to metamorphose. The father carries them around dutifully and expels them through his mouth when they have completed their transformation into little tadpoles.
5. Jacana (Jacanidae)
The jacana is a beautiful bird that is famous for its incredible ability to seemingly walk across water. Also known as ‘lillytrotters’ or Jesus-birds this species of birds exhibit a curious parenting behavior. After laying the eggs, female jacanas are known to abandon the nest and fly off in search of other mates. In this period, the male jacanas take full responsibility for incubating the eggs and taking care of them. Once they've hatched, the males become the sole caregivers for the babies.
Jacana fathers even lift their babies with their wings or keep them under their chins at times to carry them to safety and can do everything in their power to protect their young from any potential threats.
6. Catfish (Siluriformes)
The catfish is an order of fish (Siluriformes) that is generally found in the Atlantic waters. The male catfish is an extra protective father who carries up to 50 marble-sized eggs in its mouth and keeps them there until the little ones are of a size that will help them survive. This process is called brooding and during this phase, the father catfish goes several days without eating for the sake of its children.
7. Black-Necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus)
The males of the black-necked swan species are doting dads. While both the mother and father swans carry cygnets on their backs, it is usually the dad who does it more proactively. Father swans carry the babies on their backs and guard them against predators, the cold weather, and other hazards.
When the infants are just a few weeks old, the male black-necked swan makes the greatest effort to protect its young and keep a watchful eye on them at all times. They take care of their offspring for over a year and are avidly and continuously involved with the mother to help raise the kids.
8. African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)
African wild dog dads are known for being efficient hunters but they rarely get any recognition for good parenting. However, they are pretty proactive as fathers, too. Like most puppies, African wild dog pups are extremely energetic and burn quite a few calories all through the day.
The pups are unable to eat proper solids until they are 10 weeks old and this is where the dads come in to help. The male African wild dog pre-chews food for his young and regurgitates it for them to eat. In doing so, he not only provides nourishment to his babies but also ensures that the pups don’t wander off too far and fall prey to predators.