FATHERLY instincts. We’d like to think we have a hold on that particular trait. After all, evolution has given most males of the animal species an excuse to “love ‘em and leave ‘em”.
According to Les Kaufman, an evolutionary biologist at Boston University, it’s usually the females who take on the parenting role.
The males on the other hand, use less energy and have little control on whether his genes make it to the next generation. So he usually hedges his bets by mating as much as possible.
Darwinian yes, but Father Of The Year Award? Well, no.
Okay, that may sound familiar to some of us who’s not really had great father figures, father non grata or had dealings with Lotharios in the past. Don’t blame the animal instincts completely.
Mother Nature has in fact, given us some great role models who make amazing fathers.
Sometimes we can take lessons from animal dads who chose the harder path of nurturing their young, probably shaped by difficult living conditions which required much more effort from both parents to ensure the survival of their young, and then those who stuck on with parenting duties when the going got tough and the mummies got going.
Here’s a shout-out to those creatures who may not get a tie clip or a pair of socks today. But never mind, we have some suggested gifts for our dedicated fathers. Animal daddies, we salute you!
Honey, I’m carrying your babies
Forget Caitlin Jenner and the Kardashian melodrama. Seahorses are pros when it comes to bending gender stereotypes. The traditional roles of mums and dads gets swapped, and the male seahorses are the ones that get pregnant!
Never mind the traditional role of sperm producers. The female transfers her eggs to the male’s abdominal pouch, the male releases sperm to fertilise the eggs as they enter, before incubating them for 24 days until they’re born.
So yes, pregnant dudes not only carry their offspring (between 10 and 300 of them!) to birth, but produce genes to help keep their young healthy — from providing energy-rich fats and calcium to allow embryos to build their tiny skeletons and bony body rings to removing wastes produced by the embryos such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
The increased respiration, the change in skin colour and violent contractions. You haven’t seen anything yet until you’ve seen a male seahorse in labour!
Suggested gifts: Maternity clothes, baby showers and Lamaze classes
Pushover for love
Male Jacanas put stay-at-home daddies to shame. They make the nest, incubate the eggs and care for their young until they’re old enough to fend for themselves. The mummy? Well, she gets to be the flirty femme fatale and sows her wild oats. The Jacana females lay approximately four glossy eggs, and the males sit on them and look after the chicks.
While mummy goes out to, err, play, the daddies take great care of their young, guarding them against predators.
When the eggs or hatchlings are threatened, daddies swoop in, pick up their young under each wing and glides across the water to safety with their large feet that enables them to walk on lily pads in the water.
They’re such loyal fathers that they often care for eggs that were fertilised by other males!
Suggested gifts: A subscription to Oprah and Netflix. Possibly a book too — The Break-Up Survival Guide For Men by Susanna Gold.
Darling, leave a light on for me
The emperor penguin is the best babysitter in the world. When mummy lays her egg, her nutritional reserves become so depleted that she needs to go off to feed in the ocean for around two months!
It’s kind of like a long spa after the baby comes. This means daddy would have to keep an eye on the egg throughout the freezing Antarctic winter.
He doesn’t eat because he has to hold the egg between the tops of his feet and his brooding pouch throughout the entire winter (where brutal winds can reach up to 190km per hour!).
If he moves too suddenly or if the egg becomes exposed to the freezing temperature, the chick will die. This takes a lot of dedication (and dieting) coupled with a balancing act to ensure that his baby lives. Now who can top that?
When mummy returns from spa retreat, she regurgitates food for the hatchling and daddy can finally take a break and go for his long-anticipated fishing trip with his buddies.
Mum can’t begrudge him that treat, can she?
Suggested gifts: Yoga classes to help with his balancing act and The Complete Guide To Fasting. Maybe one of those new-fangled expensive fishing rods too — he deserves it!
The Brady Bunch
Newsflash — we’re not the only primates that take pride in our family rearing skills. Consider the marmoset, the small furry tree-dwelling primates who take their father roles very seriously.
You think you deserve an award for being present during your child’s delivery? Think again. Marmoset daddies often act as attentive midwives during the birth of their young, often going as far as cleaning up after the birth and biting off the umbilical cord!
It’s a family affair for the marmosets. With the help of an extended family including older siblings, daddies take on the nurturing role of feeding, grooming and spending time with their little ones while mummy takes a break after a difficult birth.
They often take their kids on piggyback rides and spend quality time being hands-on daddies.
Suggested gifts: Tesco shopping vouchers — it’s a big family and they could use the extra groceries, grooming kit for dad (and his kids).
They ain’t heavy, they’re my kids!
The male waterbug is generally a lot cautious when picking a mate. This is hardly surprising considering that the female waterbug would glue her eggs on the male’s back once mating is over.
So yes, the good lovin’ may be fleeting but the babies are there to stay. At least for a while.
Talk about shouldering a burden, the male waterbug is loaded up with 150 or more eggs and totally responsible for their survival.
He executes some weird positions like a deep knee bend to help aerate the eggs and sometimes sits at the water surface to dry them off and get rid of parasites.
He ensures the eggs’ safety from predators, displaying such dedicated paternal instincts rarely found in the insect world.
Right before the eggs hatch, the male stops eating to avoid consuming his own offspring. Once they hatch, he kicks the egg pads off his back.
Eggs safe — check, eggs hatched — check, achievement unlocked.
Suggested gifts: Gym membership with a personal trainer. He’s got to keep that back strong for the next round of
My love will go on and on
Forget love stories. Just look at the Great Hornbills instead. Monogamous and amazing parents, they’re the quintessential family unit we should all aspire to.
When mama is ready to lay an egg, the pair of hornbills go house-hunting and build their nest inside a tree’s natural cavity, which is then sealed off with mud and faeces.
Mama stays on the inside and a small slit is made in the sealed off opening where daddy can pass food to her.
For the entire incubation period, the male makes up to five trips a day to feed mummy and the chick once it’s hatched.
It’s both interesting and sad to note however, that should anything happen to daddy while he’s out foraging for food, mummy and chick will both starve to death!
Once the chick becomes large enough, the mother will break the seal and get out, leaving baby inside.
Then both mum and dad will continue to feed baby for another couple of months until the chick is developed enough to come out and fly.
Suggested gifts: Typical Daddy’s Day gift — a wallet, a family album with mummy and baby pictures in them. Maybe even food vouchers, so he won’t feel the strain of feeding hungry mouths for months on end.
So there you have it! Animals do make amazing daddies — well at least some of them do. There are many more examples in the animal kingdom who possess great paternal instincts. We could look at Mother Nature for inspiration and perhaps recognise some of those instincts in our own daddy cools. If you do, perhaps the gift suggestions would come in handy after all.
Happy Father’s Day!