In the animal kingdom, dads don’t often stand out for their role as parent, mentor, and friend. But some are doing their part to change that reputation. Just like human fathers, animal dads can make extraordinary sacrifices for their children. But they also know when it’s their offspring’s time to leave the nest and seek out their own territory.
Here are six examples of wild dads protecting, teaching, and supporting their young.
Emperor penguins live up to their name as they rule the Antarctic roost. While Mom goes off on a months-long search for food to share with their unhatched chick, Dad stays with the newly laid egg. He must keep it warm by cradling it on his feet and covering it with his brood pouch, a layer of feathered skin used just for this purpose. For the next two months, this is his only job. He’ll forsake everything else, including eating, relying on his own fat reserves to see him through. If their chick hatches before Mom returns, Dad will feed the baby penguin. But once Mom’s back, both share responsibility for raising and feeding the chick. The chick eventually develops feathers and is able to survive outside his parents’ brood pouches. Soon they’ll all return to the sea, their true home.