I am lucky in the dad department – while my biological father is not a part of my life, I’ve had a stepdad who’s been there since I was a baby – a man who stepped in when he was twenty-five to raise a daughter that wasn’t his by blood. He did an amazing job. He is Dad, in all the ways that matter, and he has my unending respect and gratitude for being there all my life.
This Father’s Day, YDV takes a look at some other awesome dads in the non-human animal kingdom. Think that only humans step in to raise babies who aren’t (biologically) their own? Think again…
Solenosteira macrospira (aka Snails)
Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that “on average, only one in four of the hundreds of eggs that a male S. macrospira carries around on his back belong to him. Some carry the offspring of as many as 25 other males.” How’s that for stepping in?
A Cornell DNA study in 1998 found that over a six-year period on the Chagres River after mating, males “were left for weeks to incubate eggs and then, as single parents, to raise chicks of uncertain paternity for two more months.” Why would the male jacana raise another male’s young? “Male jacanas seem to understand that if they abandon mixed-parentage chicks, all the young — including their own — will die,” said bioligist Peter H. Wrege.
Male baboons are twice the size of females, and the longer they stick around, according to studies, the sooner their offspring sexually mature – perhaps because of the added protection from others. According to Susan Alberts of Duke University, “sometimes a male will even adopt an orphaned baby and carry it around for months.”
A study of chimps in the Taï forest in the Ivory Coast a few years ago found eighteen cases of orphaned chimps being adopted, and not just by females. In fact, half of the adoptive parents were male. “What really surprised me in looking at the long-term data is to see that some of these adult males go really far in adopting a motherly role, carrying the baby on their back, sharing a nest, helping babies to climb trees, really caring a lot,” said research leader Christophe Boesch of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. “Normally mothers do this, but not males.”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the biological fathers who step up and do their part for their kids, so we’d like to tip our hats to the emperor penguin, the seahorse, the red fox, robins, cardinals, red-tailed hawks, and