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  • Writer's pictureDr. Orna Kretchmer

Dads in Nature

By Dr. Orna Krethcmer

Fathers from all around the world are different and special, and Father’s Day is a great time to celebrate them!

Some dads in nature are just as great - lets meet some awesome dads:

So Much Love 

Emperor Penguin

The Male emperor penguin is one of the best dads in nature. After the mom lays the egg, she is exhausted and famished. She leaves the egg with dad and goes back to the ocean to eat. Dad would care for the egg for about two months even if that means not eating! When the chick hatches, dad keeps them warm (it is VERY cold in Antarctica!) by huddling the baby in between its feet and warm body pouches.

(Picture by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Image Collection)

Is Daddy Pregnant?  


Another animal where the male takes care of its children even before they are born is the seahorse. The fathers are actually the ones who are pregnant! The fertilized eggs are placed in a special pouch inside the seahorse dad. The moms can deliver thousands of eggs, which the dads keep until they are born and later released into the water.

(Image by Tony Wu, Natural Picture Library)

All Aboard!  

Giant Water Bug

Giant water bugs are some of the most devoted dads ever! The females lay their eggs on the dad’s back (see image). The eggs are secured to the male until its back is covered by about 150 eggs. The eggs are the father's responsibility until they hatch about 3 weeks later-- making sure they get up for air and disposing of any harmful bacteria

(Image by Tom D. Schultz, National Park Service)

Don't talk to this dad - It's mouth is full (of babies)  

Hardhead Catfish

Hardhead catfishes have one of the weirdest ways to have children. Females directly lay the eggs in the mouths of the males, or on the seafloor so the father can carefully pick them up. The dad’s have to make sure not to swallow the eggs (unless they are unfertilized - then that is a free snack!). But even after the baby fish hatch, they stay in the mouth of their fathers for protection against predators.

Household Equality  


While adult flamingos are bright pink, the babies are born a tame gray and the birds get their color through food and minerals. The job of feeding the chicks is split between the mother and father, as flamingos are the perfect example of equality in a household. They both nest with the eggs and both feed the newborn a fluid produced in the adult’s digestive system

(Photo: Daniel Zupanc / Zoo Vienna)

Stay at Home Dad  


While not well known birds, Jacanas are noted for their elongated toes and toenails that allow them to spread out their weight.  The males stay with the nest even after the mothers migrate. The fathers are incredibly loyal, staying to care for the eggs and the chicks.

Single Dad  


Phalarope birds are slender-necked shorebirds. The female Phalarope mate with a male and stay to build the nest. The mom will lay the eggs in the nest and leave. Dad stays in the nest, incubate the eggs completely on its own. When the eggs hatch, the fathers stay with the chicks leads them to water and take care of them. Dads will stay until the chicks will spread their wings and take their first flight.

Tough Love  

Red Fox

Red foxes are the most affectionate mammals. When the pups are newborn, the father hunts and returns to the den every day- feeding the pups and the mother. When the pups are three months old the dad teaches them to fend for themselves by no more free food! He doesn’t bring food so the pups must leave the den. But no worries - they are very safe - daddy buried meat underground so the young can use their senses and sniff it out.

(Photo by Jeff Harrison)

Baby Food by Daddy  

African Wild Dog

Lastly, a dog, not the pet you might see on a neighborhood walk - an African wild dog! But just like any other puppies, these wild pups need a lot of food to pace their hyperactivity. The babies aren’t able to eat solid foods for a while when young, so their fathers eat and regurgitate* the food and give it to the pups so they can be nourished. This action makes sure the pups rely on their family for food, making sure   they won't wander away from the pack. *Regurgitate: to bring swallowed food back up into the mouth

(Photo by Manoj Shah, Getty Images)

Every animal dad is different and their roles vary just like human dads.

And one dad joke before we go:

What did the daddy buffalo say to its son before it left for school?

- “Bison.”

With love and appreciation to all the dads, grandads and dad figures in our lives.

Happy Father’s Day!

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