Father - Non-human Fatherhood

Non-human Fatherhood

For some animals, it is the fathers who take care of the young.

  • Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwini) fathers carry eggs in the vocal pouch.
  • Most male waterfowls are very protective in raising their offspring, sharing scout duties with the female. Examples are the geese, swans, gulls, loons, and a few species of ducks. When the families of most of these waterfowls travel, they usually travel in a line and the fathers are usually the ones guarding the offspring at the end of the line while the mothers lead the way.
  • The female seahorse (hippocampus) deposits eggs into the pouch on the male's abdomen. The male releases sperm into the pouch, fertilizing the eggs. The embryos develop within the male's pouch, nourished by their individual yolk sacs.
  • Male Emperor Penguins alone incubate their eggs; females do no incubation. Rather than building a nest, each male protects his egg by balancing it on the tops of his feet, enclosed in a special brood pouch. Once the eggs are hatched however, the females will rejoin the family.
  • Male beavers secure their offspring along with the females during their first few hours of their lives. As the young beavers mature, their fathers will teach them how to search for materials to build and repair their own dams, before they disperse to find their own mates.
  • Wolf fathers help feed, protect, and play with their pups. In some cases, several generations of wolves live in the pack, giving pups the care of grandparents, aunts/uncles, and siblings, in addition to parents. The father wolf is also the one who does most of the hunting when the females are securing their newborn pups.
  • Dolphin fathers help in the care of the young. Newborns are held on the surface of the water by both parents until they are ready to swim on their own.
  • A number of bird species have active, caring fathers who assist the mothers, such as the waterfowls mentioned above.
  • Apart from humans, fathers in few primate species care for their young. Those that do are tamarins and marmosets. Particularly strong care is also shown by siamangs where fathers carry infants after their second year. In titi and owl monkeys fathers carry their infants 90% of the time with "titi monkey infants developing a preference for their fathers over their mothers". Silverback gorillas have less role in the families but most of them serve as an extra protecting the families from harm and sometimes approaching enemies to distract them so that his family can escape unnoticed.

Many species, though, display little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. The male leaves the female soon after mating and long before any offspring are born. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young.

  • A male bear leaves the female shortly after mating and will kill and sometimes eat any bear cub he comes across, even if the cub is his. Bear mothers spend much of their cubs' early life protecting them from males. (Many artistic works, such as advertisements and cartoons, depict kindly "papa bears" when this is the exact opposite of reality.)
  • Domesticated dog fathers show little interest in their offspring, and unlike wolves, are not monogamous with their mates and are thus likely to leave them after mating.
  • Male lions will tolerate cubs, but only allow them to eat meat from dead prey after they have had their fill. Few are quite cruel towards their young and may hurt or kill them with little provocation. A male who kills another male to take control of his pride will also usually kill any cubs belonging to that competing male. However, it is also the males who are responsible for guarding the pride while the females hunt. It should also be noted however that the male lions are the only felines that actually have a role in fatherhood.
  • Male rabbits generally tolerate kits but unlike the females, they often show little interest in the kits and are known to play rough with their offsprings when they are mature, especially towards their sons. This behaviour, however, may also be part of an instinct to drive the young males away in order to prevent incest matings between the siblings. The females will eventually disperse from the warren as soon as they mature but the father does not drive them off like he normally does to the males.
  • Horse stallions have little to no role in parenting, nor are they monogamous with their mates. They will tolerate foals to a certain extent, but because of their aggressive stallion nature, they are generally annoyed by the energetic exuberance of foals, and may hurt or even kill foals. Thus, stud stallions are not kept in the same pen as their foals or other mares.

Finally, in some species neither the father nor the mother provides any care.

  • This is true for most insects and fish.

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Famous quotes containing the words fatherhood, non-human:

    To recover the fatherhood idea, we must fashion a new cultural story of fatherhood. The moral of today’s story is that fatherhood is superfluous. The moral of the new story must be that fatherhood is essential.
    David Blankenhorn (20th century)

    Almost like a god looking at her terribly out of the everlasting dark, she had felt the eyes of that horse; great glowing, fearsome eyes, arched with a question, and containing a white blade of light like a threat. What was his non-human question, and his uncanny threat? She didn’t know. He was some splendid demon, and she must worship him.
    —D.H. (David Herbert)