Unusual Dads of the Animal Kingdom

Unusual Dads of the Animal Kingdom

By Henry Fry, Team Coordinator, DK

It’s the humans who get the spotlight on Father’s Day. But how could we forget the powerful paternal carers of the animal world? Here are five fantastic non-human Dads giving it all for their families.

1. The seahorse

Here's a role-reversal that moms might envy: in the courtship of seahorses, it's the male who carries their young. He incubates the female’s eggs in a pouch for a period up to 45 days before giving birth to fully developed offspring. The dads even experience contractions!

2. The emperor penguin

Both penguin parents win the prize for Excellent Animal Carer. But it's the father who is left literally holding the baby – with his flippers! After the female lays her egg, her nutritional reserves are depleted and she goes to the ocean for two months to feed. This means Dad is left to keep the delicate egg off the freezing tundra ground, and away from the worst of the Antarctic weather.

3. The rhea

Despite their polygamous ways, the flightless ostrich deadringer is one of the animal kingdom’s most dedicated dads. A male rhea incubates up to 50 eggs from his multiple partners over a period of six weeks, scaring off predators and female rheas who might be after an egg of their own.

4. The wolf

Wolf dads are equivalent to tiger mums: attentive, monogamous and fiercely protective. After their mate has given birth, she stays with her pink, helpless pups in their den for several weeks. During this time it's down to Dad to provide and defend the family unit, bringing back kills to his litter which Mum regurgitates for her young. As they grow, Dad teaches the young pups the ways of the wolf, helping them integrate into the pack.

5. The marmoset

Male marmosets feed their young, groom them, and carry them through the trees, while females take a much more "laid back" approach. After childbirth, marma-mums take a pretty relaxed attitude to parenthood. During labor, Dad acts as midwife, too! 

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