Jun 16

All across the UK, USA and Canada today, families will be celebrating Father’s Day in honour of all those awesome dads out there. Fathers are fantastic folk for all sorts of reasons, so we thought we’d delve into the ARKive collection to find some extra-special dads of the wild variety.

1. Male pregnancy?!

Spiny seahorse image

We’ll start with a classic example of the unusual lengths some dads will go to for their young: the seahorse! Like other species of its kind, the male spiny seahorse is the one that becomes ‘pregnant’. It will carry the fertilised eggs in a pouch in its tail, and will actually go through labour at the end of the pregnancy, actively forcing the young out!

2. Looking after the ankle-biters…

Betic midwife toad image

All midwife toad species have a somewhat unusual parental care system, and this Betic midwife toad is no exception. The male straps clutches of fertilised eggs to its hind legs and carries them around for about a month, constantly ensuring that they are kept moist. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the male deposits them in a suitable area of water.

3. Housekeeping dad

Malleefowl image

A very attentive and industrious bird, the male malleefowl is in charge of digging a large nest, up to five metres wide and one metre deep. This is filled with twigs and leaves which eventually turn to compost. Even after the female has laid her eggs in the heat-producing nest, the male’s job is not over. The feathered father carefully covers the eggs up, and throughout the incubation period it uses its beak to test the temperature of the nest, either adding or removing nesting material in order to maintain a constant temperature of 34°C for its developing brood.

4. Fearsome father

Wolverine image

The largest member of the weasel family, the wolverine has a reputation for being an aggressive creature. Yet it turns out that males of this species actually make rather caring dads! A male wolverine mates with two or three females in a season, and it roams across hundreds of miles of terrain every month to visit its young. These fearsome fathers are also known to teach their older offspring how to fend for themselves in their rugged environment.

5. Honey, I swallowed the kids…

Spotfin betta image

Thankfully, this fishy father does not actually swallow its offspring, but it does incubate its eggs and brood the young in its mouth for several weeks! This parental tactic is known as mouthbrooding, and is thought to protect the eggs and young from predation as well as from potentially hazardous water currents. Nice work from the spotfin betta!

6. Dedicated dad

Bristle-thighed curlew image

After hatching, bristle-thighed curlew chicks are initially looked after by both parents. Yet even before the chicks have fledged, the female bristle-thighed curlew abandons her young, leaving the male to take care of them all alone. The dedicated dad aggressively defends its offspring either by performing distraction displays when a threat approaches or attacking potential predators.

7. Primate papa

Grey-legged night monkey image

Male parental care is relatively rare in mammals, yet this grey-legged night monkey is a particularly paternal primate. And a good job, too, given that the female will only accept contact with its offspring when the infant needs to suckle! If the attention-seeking youngster should try and climb on the female’s back, the latter will actively pull the infant off itself and even bite it if it tries to cling on! The male carries around its young, defends it, and is responsible for the infant’s upbringing, including teaching it how to survive in the wild (and possibly how to deal with its cranky mother!).

8. Caring clownfish

Common clownfish image

Whereas many parents only have to keep an eye on one or two youngsters at a time, which is tough in itself, the male clownfish has a much bigger task…it has to guard and protect anywhere between 100 and 1,000 eggs! Quite a feat! Luckily, although the male is in charge of defence, the female also plays a role in tending to the eggs, assisting the male in removing litter or dead eggs from the clutch.

9. Attentive avian

Southern cassowary image

The southern cassowary definitely deserves a Feathered Father of the Year Award; once the female has laid a clutch of eggs, the male is left to take sole responsibility for their care. This attentive avian incubates the eggs for about 50 days, and only leaves the nest in order to have a drink. Even after hatching, this dad’s dedication never falters, as the male southern cassowary continues to care for its offspring for up to 16 months.

10. Furry father

Red fox image

One might expect a sly male fox to slink away once its young have been born and avoid all responsibility for their upbringing, but this is not the case. This furry father is actually an extremely diligent dad, and heads out several times a day to hunt and bring back food to feed its entire family. Male foxes have also been observed playing with their offspring and showing them around their territory.

All of the dads above demonstrate a great deal of dedication to their youngsters, but which one do you think deserves to win ARKive’s Father of the Year Award? Let us know in a comment below!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

  • Quinn (June 17th, 2012 at 1:15 am):

    red fox.

  • Quinn (June 17th, 2012 at 1:18 am):


  • Desiree (greenmomster.org) (June 17th, 2012 at 7:27 pm):

    I think the seahorses should get the award!

  • Homa (June 18th, 2012 at 4:23 am):

    Spiny seahorse Beacause he becomes pregnant!!……

  • Quinn (June 20th, 2012 at 12:32 pm):

    well, maybe the seahorse……I vote for seahorse!

  • Hortma (June 30th, 2012 at 9:01 pm):

    wish you would have labeled the beautiful mouthbrooding fish. My vote-he must get hungry yet he doesn’t eat the babies.

  • Khalid (July 20th, 2012 at 4:43 am):

    I vote for the red fox.

  • Dave (June 16th, 2013 at 12:22 pm):

    I also agree, why specifically name all the other animals but not the fish? There is more than one species of clownfish, too. You must have the info…. Also no invertebrates? Toe-biter water bug males carry the eggs on their backs for example. It would be nice to have a fair representation (and certainly equal billing by name) of species. I vote for the poor unnamed fish!

  • Nixxi (June 16th, 2013 at 4:20 pm):

    Southern cassowary – He not only incubates the eggs, but care for the chicks for such a long time afterward

  • Luke (June 16th, 2013 at 5:38 pm):

    seahorse gets my vote

  • Sally Morrow (June 16th, 2013 at 7:14 pm):

    The Jacana (not listed) would get my vote.

  • Kimz (June 16th, 2013 at 7:47 pm):

    good old foxy

  • amelia (June 16th, 2013 at 8:52 pm):

    Tough decision, for me its between the seahorse and the fox. I’m choosing fox, simply because he continues to care for the young, and it doesn’t say if the seahorse is involved after pregnancy

  • Diane R (June 16th, 2013 at 11:56 pm):

    Red fox!

  • Mike (June 17th, 2013 at 1:39 am):

    Interesting! Happy Father’s Day! I like the Red Fox,too.

  • Susan (June 17th, 2013 at 12:09 pm):

    I vote for the red fox.

  • Kimz (June 17th, 2013 at 7:46 pm):

    the fox is still my favourite – aren’t the babies sweet?!

  • Billy (June 17th, 2013 at 7:49 pm):

    Fox gets my vote too…

  • Kimz (June 17th, 2013 at 7:52 pm):

    The red fox is still my favourite – aren’t the babies sweet?!

  • Willene (July 16th, 2013 at 3:40 pm):

    the Red fox gets my vote!!