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Fabulous Fathers in Nature

This article was featured in the 6/7/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise

Fabulous Fathers in Nature

Pregnant male White's Seahorse. Photo credit: Sylke Rohrlach

Fabulous Fathers in Nature


By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


Often times in nature, fathers are not involved in the rearing of their young.  However, there are several exceptions to this rule across many of the animal kingdoms. A few of these exceptions will be touched upon in this article.


Let’s start with the obvious one.  Most people have heard about how the male seahorses are the ones who give birth to their young.  Females deposit their eggs into the male’s pouch where he fertilizes and internally incubates them until the baby seahorses are fully formed, which he then also gives births to them.  Some male fish, like catfish, hold eggs in their mouth until they hatch, sometimes going without food for the whole incubation.  Others still will help build nests to hide eggs in for protection.


Another well-known, caring animal dad is the Emperor penguin.  Males and females take turns watching their egg, covering it with an egg pouch on top of their feet, while the other parent leaves to find food, often for months at a time.  After the egg hatches, both males and females will also take turns regurgitating food to feed the chicks.  There are many more bird species that share in the caring of their young.  Other still, like emus, rheas, and spotted sandpipers, are the primary caretakers of the eggs and the newly hatched young.


There are even a few examples of co-parenting in insect species.  Giant water bugs carry eggs on their back, often from several females.  He will carry and care for the eggs until they hatch several weeks later.  Burying beetles and the beetle Lethrus apterus both defend their nests and brood from intruders, giving the females and larvae a better chance for survival.


Mammals have even more examples of parenting from males.  Group animals such as wolves and gorillas will help socialize and defend their young. Marmosets are often born as twins, both parents will carry and care for the young.


There are likely many more examples of fabulous, animal fathers, but these are some of the most well-known examples.


A fun family activity for all ages is vising Explorit’s Anne Hance Exploration Gallery.  Our current exhibit is Earth Explorations.  Parents and children alike can have fun exploring the forces that shape our Earth and looking at a variety of rock and mineral samples.


Explorit's coming events:

  • Visit Explorit's latest exhibition, Earth Explorations. Explorit'sExploration Galleryis open to the public every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.
  • Explorit offers summer camp at Davis and Woodland locations. Limited spots are still open.  To register, visit
  • Become a membership to Explorit and also gain free access to hundreds of science museums across the nation. Discounts for camps and birthday parties.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership online call Explorit at 530-756-0191. For a list of participating museums across the nation visit



Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or "like" us on Facebook at

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