6 Best Dads in the Animal Kingdom
Most women would love for their husband or boyfriend to pick up the slack at home and with the kids. Well, if Dad needs some inspiration, he can look to these examples of doting dads in the animal kingdom.
The male seahorse has been long touted as nature’s most motherly male-embryos grow inside his brood pouch for up to a month, then he squeezes them out of his swollen abdomen. But they’re not the only example of dedicated dads in the animal kingdom.
Darwin’s rhea-an ostrich-type bird in South America-does an elaborate dance, running about flapping its large flightless wings, to attract a female near the nest he’s built. After she drops an egg he chases her off and rolls the egg gently home, where he guards it without sleeping more than two minutes at a time. Once the eggs hatch, this usually silent bird whistles to keep in contact with his youngsters and will even adopt strays. Usually a gentle giant, during the six months it takes for his brood to mature, he protects them aggressively: Some say the rhea rushes men on horseback, and even challenges small airplanes.
Using sticky secretions from his own kidneys, the male stickleback river fish is a meticulous nest architect. He has been known to back up, stare at the nest, then swim over with a stick or two, spitting them carefully into place. His detailed preparations lay the groundwork for layers of eggs deposited by successive females. This devoted dad inspects his clutch constantly, removing eggs that die, fanning to aerate the rest. Once the eggs have hatched, he spends up to a week rounding up wanderers in his mouth and popping them back into the safety of his nest.
There’s no more fun-loving dad than the red fox. The paternal bond is cemented early in life when the male hustles to nourish his offspring by bringing his vixen food every four to six hours while she’s nursing. Once the youngsters are mobile, dad shows great excitement, playing with them endlessly for their first three months. Then he turns teacher, lightly burying food under leaves and twigs and sending the pups out to find it, to develop their foraging skills.
Overburdened Old Man
The giant water bug literally shoulders full responsibility for his enormous brood. A female affixes 150 or more eggs to the fellow’s broad back before scooting off. He totes the clutch around for a few weeks, doing deep-knee bends to aerate them, sitting occasionally on the surface of the water to dry them in order to get rid of parasites, and staying on the move to keep the eggs safe from predators. His load triples in size before hatching, and he’ll fast the last few days to avoid inadvertently eating his young. Once free from responsibility, he kicks the pods off his back and readies to load up with more.
Imagine being immobilized, not eating, for your wife’s entire pregnancy. That is essentially what the Emperor penguin does. Dad places the newly-laid egg on his feet, covers it with a warm fold of bare flesh, and stands still throughout the most bitter part of the Antarctic winter. Sixty-five days later, when his mate returns, he deftly transfers the precious bundle to mom within 10 seconds, then heads out to feed. The chick hatches within days. Food is so far from their breeding grounds that mom and dad will manage only a combined 15 meals until the chick is self-sufficient enough to join them in the hunt for fish, squid and crustaceans.