Human fathers may complain about having it tough when they’re enlisted to change a diaper or bring a nap-deprived toddler to the supermarket. But some dads in the animal kingdom do the lion’s — or seahorse’s — share of the parenting. Today we bring you nature’s most extreme Dads.
Consider the male African bullfrog. These huge amphibians first watch over the fertilized eggs and then are responsible for babysitting the tadpoles — all 4,000 of them. If the young are stranded in a shallow pool, it’s this extreme Dad who uses his thunder thighs to dig a channel so the kids can escape to deeper water.
In the tropical wetlands of Africa, Asia and elsewhere, the male jacana bird flies solo. After Mom lays the eggs, she leaves — to find a new breeding partner. Dad, meanwhile, incubates the eggs, teaches the chicks to find dinner, and will even carry an endangered baby under his wings, all while Mom remains absent.
The male emperor penguin is often a single parent, too, keeping an egg warm and going hungry for two long, cold Antarctic months while Mom’s away.
In Africa, the male lion may shirk his dad duties most of the time — he’s known for napping up to 20 hours a day — but when Mom’s out hunting, he guards the cubs and defends their territory. That thick mane around his neck is to protect against scratches during the vicious fights that can occur when a new male wants to join the family.
And then there’s the seahorse, where the father, not the mother, gets pregnant. These most extreme dads of this upright swimming species have a brood pouch, where the female deposits her eggs. Then, Dad gets to experience the miracles of weight gain, stretch marks, and labor. Within a few hours of giving birth, he’s ready to mate again.