Animal Dads

Most animals never even see their parents! Many never meet their fathers and some never meet their mothers, either. Some insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles hatch from fertilized eggs and face life completely alone. When animals are raised by parents, it's most often the mother who does the rearing. But we found some unusual animal dads.

Catfish: A father sea catfish keeps the eggs of his young in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. He will not eat until his young are born, which may take several weeks.


red tailed catfish
used by permission: Daesaeng Corporation

Cockroach: A father cockroach eats bird droppings to obtain precious nitrogen, which he carries back to feed his young.

Duck: Most male ducks live as bachelors, but the ruddy duck of North America helps care for his young.

Since earthworms have both male and female sex organs, every earthworm can be both a mother and a father! Animals that have both male and female organs are called hermaphrodites.

Frog: The male Darwin frog hatches his eggs in a pouch in his mouth. He can eat and continue about his business until his tadpoles lose their tails, become tiny frogs, and jump out of his mouth!

Monkey: Marmosets are tiny South American monkeys. The fathers take care of their babies from birth. When the marmoset is born, the father cleans it, then carries it to the mother only when it needs to be nursed. When the baby can eat solid food, the father will feed it.

Penguin: A father Emperor penguin withstands the Antarctic cold for 60 days or more to protect his eggs, which he keeps on his feet, covered with a feathered flap. During this entire time he doesn't eat a thing. Most father penguins lose about 25 pounds while they wait for their babies to hatch. Afterward, they feed the chicks a special liquid from their throats. When the mother penguins return to care for the young, the fathers go to sea to eat and rest.

Rhea: Rheas are large South American birds similar to ostriches. Father rhea takes sole care of his young. From eggs to chicks, he feeds, defends, and protects them until they are old enough to survive on their own.

Sand grouse: A father Namaqua sand grouse of Africa's Kalahari Desert flies as far as 50 miles a day in order to soak himself in water and return to his nest, where his chicks can drink from his feathers!

Sea horse: The male sea horse has a pouch in which the mother lays her eggs. The father then looks after the eggs for about two months, until they hatch and leave the pouch. He continues to protect the young until they are able to live on their own.

yellow seahorse
copyright John White, used with permission

Siamese fighting fish: When the mother lays her eggs, the father catches them in his mouth, then drops them into a nest he has prepared. He guards the nest and protects the baby fish when they hatch.

Wolf: When the mother wolf gives birth to pups, the father stands guard outside their den and brings food to the mother and pups. As they grow, he not only plays with them but also teaches them how to survive. Wolves continue to live together much as human families do.


Speed of AnimalsWays of LifeGestation, Incubation, and Longevity of Selected Animals

More on Animal Dads from Fact Monster: