Happy Father’s Day: 20 Awesome Animal Dads

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In celebration of Father’s Day, here are 20 awesome animal dads that go above and beyond their parenting duties, thus providing their children with great opportunities to survive in the wild.

Buns in the Oven: Male Animal Pregnancies

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Not all animals come from the mother’s womb; in the case of seahorses, pipefish and leafy sea dragons, it is the father who gets pregnant. Female seahorses deposit eggs in the brood pouches of male seahorses, which then fertilize the eggs with their own sperm and reside over three-week pregnancies. Over the course of three days, the male seahorse gives birth to 200 baby seahorses. Similarly, male pipefish carry eggs in protective pouches prior to giving birth, as do leafy sea dragons, which not only care for eggs over a nine-week period but give birth during a 24-48 hour period by shooting the babies out from their tails. For more information on male animal pregnancies, please see the following WebEcoist article: Role Reversal: 5 Strange Tales of Animal Male Pregnancies.


A Father’s Warmth: Emperor Penguins, Rheas & Sticklebacks


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While male emperor penguins do not get pregnant, they spend 60 days incubating their young, specifically with a feathered flap located on the tip of their feet. While protecting the eggs from the Arctic cold (with temperatures reaching as low as 70 degrees below), the father emperor penguins do not eat a thing, causing them to lose as much as half of their total body weights. Another incubator is the male rhea, a large bird that keeps anywhere from 10-60 eggs warm during a 40-day period and then raises its young for nearly two years, solely on its own. A little fish that is quite the ladies man, the sticklefish actually shows some restraint and discipline when carrying for the eggs of its young, specifically by spending more than half of each day fanning them at 400 beats per minute, thus providing air that is oxygen rich and clean.


Kissing Fathers: Sea Catfish and Giant African Bullfrogs


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Once a male sea catfish fertilizes his eggs, he protects them in a unique way, by storing up to 50 fertilized eggs in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. Especially interesting, the sea catfish will keep his hatched babies in his mouth for up to 2 weeks before setting them free into the big, wide world. If you think that’s crazy, the giant African bullfrog will swallow more than 6,000 eggs, keep them inside his vocal sacs for six weeks, and then spit them out during hatching season.


Regurgitating Daddies: Male Cockroaches and Wolves


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Cockroaches have a disgusting effect on not only humans but their young. To ensure that his baby cockroaches are getting the necessary nutrients to grow up and be strong and equally disgusting cockroaches, the dad cockroach will consume bird droppings rich in nitrogen and then regurgitate the waste to his young. Not only do male wolves hunt as far as 20 miles away for food for their young, they also rip apart and regurgitate meat for baby wolves that are less than 3 months old and do not have strong enough teeth.


Great Providers: The Red Fox and Sand Grouse


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Many of our fathers worked tirelessly to put food on the table when we were young; the same goes for male red foxes, which must hunt for food every 4-6 hours when feeding their families, and the sand grouse, which flies and flies and flies to saturate its young. To their credit, male red foxes are able to maintain a “work hard, play hard” mentality. When their young foxes grow up, the fathers will often roughhouse with them and teach them how to hunt. As for the Kalahari Desert’s male sand grouse, it will fly as many as 50 miles a day to soak its feathers in water before returning to its nest to lets its babies drink from them.


The Protectors: Jacanas and Lions


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Known for their ability to balance on lily pads (thus appearing to walk on water), jacanas keep close guard of their nests, often protecting their young from their cheating mothers, who not only run off with other partners but come back and smash their own eggs. As for the father lion, he has a history of careless fathering such as sleeping when the lioness and cubs attack prey and then getting first dibs on meals. However, he is a great protector when awake, willing to take on anyone when it comes to protecting his pride, which can include as many as a dozen cubs and 7 lionesses.


Daddy Car Care: Dart Frogs, Marmosets & Water Bugs


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When many of us were young, our Dads lugged us around many places, whether it be school, sporting events, recitals or somewhere else. It turns out that male golden poison dart frogs, marmosets and giant water bugs are no different than many of our Dads. After the female golden poison dart frog lays its eggs on land, the male frog will give newly-hatched tadpoles a piggyback ride, carrying them on his back to large bodies of water so that they can evolve one day into frogs.  As for male marmosets, they often lug around their young on their backs, specifically when swinging through the trees. With that said, it’s not just fun and games for the male marmosets, which actually spend more time raising their young than their female partners, which only pay attention to the babies when it’s time to nurse. When the baby marmosets are ready for solid food, their fathers will help them find it and then feed them. As for giant water bugs, they will spend up to a full week carrying 150 eggs on their back until their babies hatch. Sounds painful.


Male Weaver Birds: The Bob Villas of Animal Dads


(Image via: British Science Association)


How many fathers out there were especially handy, building their daughters dollhouses and their sons new bikes? Before a male weaver bird can become a father, he must prove that he is up for the task, specifically by building a nest for the young. If the female weaver does not find the nest acceptable, she will refuse to mate with the male, which may tear down the nest and start from scratch to appease his desire to make babies.

Male Flamingo Milk: It Does The Body Good

(Image via: New York Daily News)


Milk is a rich nutritional resource for the young that typically comes from the female. In the case of flamingos, it is the male who secretes milk for the young. While containing protein and fat like other mammal milk, the male flamingo milk is a bit different in that is red rather than white in color, due to a pigment that is stored in the flamingo’s liver.


The Male Antechinus and Its Ultimate Sacrifice


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With a tireless libido, the small Australian mouse known as the antechinus can spend up to 12 hours mating at a time. However, the antechinus can get so caught up in making love that it forgets to feed itself and sleep. Thus, many of these male mice die after mating. However, the sacrifice is not without reward, as the female partner often has enough sperm to last until the end of breeding season and sustain the population.

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