Updated: Dec 20, 2022
In a world filled with caring parents that go the extra mile to ensure the survival of their offspring, there are some animal fathers that take it a step further in how much time and effort they dedicate to their babies. Some forgo food for months, some actually take care of the incubation process for the female, some are dedicated lovers, while others have to accept the reality of an unfaithful partner. So who are these fantastic fathers?
The first animal father we are focusing on lives in one the the most challenging environments on the whole planet. Down south in Antarctica, the Emperor Penguin, who is the largest species of penguin, must overcome the harsh climate there to hatch just one egg. Once the egg is laid, the females actually give the egg over to the males to take care of the incubation while they travel back to the sea to feed. During the winter the males huddle together during the harsh winter storms to ensure the survival of both themselves and the next generation. They care for these eggs for about 2 months without eating. Once the females return to care of the hatched young the males can then finally head to the ocean to eat. Emperor penguins are monogamous so the same pair will go through the same process again each time they produce an offspring.
Next we will plunge into the ocean to find our next father. Seahorses are unusual creatures with equally unusual mating practices. When they mate, they curl together in the water and the female deposits her eggs into the male’s pouch. From there it takes 2-6 weeks for the babies to incubate, and then the babies hatch and are pumped out of the pouch by the father. From there the babies are on their own, and the monogamous parents start the process over again.
Emerging from the ocean, this fantastic father can be found along the beach. These dads actually do their breeding all around North America including New England. The Spotted Sandpiper is a small bird that can be found scurrying along the beaches. Similarly to the seahorses and penguins, the females lay the eggs and the males incubate and care for them. But unlike the other two animals, these birds are polyandrous, and the females are actually the ones that go off and look for other mates after she lays her eggs. This type of behavior may sound bad to humans but getting many fertilized eggs with many different males is evolutionarily advantageous to ensure that at least one of her offspring can survive. Which in the case of the sandpiper, means more work for the males.
The animal kingdom is filled with some amazing dads. These three are great examples of the efforts that fathers will go to for the survival of their offspring. Although their practices may seem strange to us, evolution has led them to these rituals to ensure their survival in their own unique way. Do you know any other fantastic fathers?