Jun 19

In honor of Father’s Day, being celebrated across the US and UK today, we have delved into the ARKive collection to track down the animal kingdoms’ Top Ten Fathers. You may think your dad is pretty awesome, but the natural world has some pretty wild challengers but who deserves the title of Father of the Year?

10. Ice ice baby

Photo of an adult emperor penguin and chick walking along ice

After the female emperor penguin lays a single egg, it is up to the male to keep it protected from the harsh subzero conditions of the Antarctic. Using his feet and a feathery pouch of skin, the male incubates the egg while the female departs for the sea to feed. After around 9 weeks, once the egg has hatched, the female returns and the male heads to the sea to regain his lost weight, which can amount to around half of his bodyweight.  After he regains his strength, the male penguin will return to assume parenting responsibilities with his mate. Now that is a dedicated dad!

9. Home alone

Photo of a male red phalarope with chick

After the female red phalarope lays three eggs, she abandons the male to search for another mate and dad is left to incubate the eggs. 17 to 26 days later, the eggs hatch and the male takes on the role of single parent to his young.

8. Pregnant dad

Photo of a pygmy seahorse in coral

Can you spot the pygmy seahorse in the photo above? Not only is it the smallest seahorse in the world, it is also one of the most camouflaged species in the ocean! Believe it or not, as with many other seahorses, the pygmy seahorse male actually becomes pregnant! He carries the eggs within his trunk region for around two weeks and has been seen ‘giving birth’ to up to thirty-four live young!

7. The hunter gatherer

Photo of a male Narcondam hornbill

We’ve heard stories of soon-to-be-fathers raiding supermarkets to fulfill their pregnant wives’ crazy cravings, but nothing compares to what the male Narcondam hornbill does for the mother of its offspring. During the breeding season, the female isolates herself in a tree cavity, using her own droppings to seal the cavity entrance to nothing but a thin slit. Throughout the egg-laying and chick rearing process the male forages for food and regurgitates it through the slit in order to nourish his partner.

6. I’ve got a frog in my throat!

Photo of a male pregnant Darwin's frog

Male Darwin’s frogs go to great lengths to be top dads. After the female lays about forty eggs, she leaves and it is up to her mate to guard the eggs. Twenty days later, when the eggs start to wriggle around, dad picks the eggs up with his tongue and moves them into his vocal sac. The tadpoles hatch there and remain safe and warm while metamorphosis takes place. When the little froglets reach 1 cm long and their tails reduce to a small stump, dad lets them out of his mouth. As many as 19 tadpoles can be in the vocal sac at one time, making the male’s internal organs distort! Lucky for him, his organs go back into place after the froglets are released.

5. Welcome to the stickleback spa

Three-spined stickleback photo

The male three-spined stickleback provides spa-like treatments for his young even before they are born! After the female lays her eggs in a nest made by her mate, the male takes over all parental duties. He guards the eggs from predators and uses his fins to fan them, providing them with more oxygen. What a relaxed way to come into the world!

4. Rheas make great dads!

 Lesser rhea with chicks in scrub

During the breeding season, the male greater rhea is left to take care of eggs laid by the various females he has mated with, while the females leave to find other mates. Dad creates a nest for the eggs and incubates them. After hatching, dad leads the chicks away from the nest and continues parenting them for several months. The same can be said for lesser rheas. Some dads may even ‘adopt’ rhea chicks that have been separated from their own fathers! These young rheas have great dads!

3. Personal chauffeur

 Geoffroy's marmoset photo

After a Geoffroy’s marmoset female gives birth, the young are too fragile and dependent to travel on their own. But have no fear little ones, dad to the rescue! These dads carry their young for two weeks until they are able to travel on their own. Talk about a customized chauffeur service – this primate father is pretty amazing!

2. Guard duck

 Ruddy shelduck photo

The male ruddy shelduck can be mistaken for a ferocious guard dog! After the female lays eight to nine eggs in her nest, she sits and incubates them for about twenty-nine days. All the while, the male shelduck diligently stands guard and defends her from predators.

1. Father of the year

Tiger photo

The last dedicated dad on our list of Fathers of the Year goes to an unsuspecting candidate – the tiger. Tigers are famous for many reasons, but male parenting skills are not typically listed amongst them. However, there is one male tiger that has gone against what we thought we knew about the endangered species. Recently, officials from the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India have reported that a lone male adopted a litter of cubs that went missing after their mother died last February. This is quite remarkable, considering that male tigers do not usually interact positively with cubs.

All of these fathers definitely deserve more than a tie this year, but which one do you think deserves the title of Father of the Year? Let us know in the comments below and tell us about any other amazing dad’s you know – wild or otherwise!

Gabrielle Otero, Wildscreen USA/ARKive Summer Intern