Being a dad is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and sometimes one of the most under-appreciated. The amount of work and love it takes to be a good father can exhaust anyone, including animal fathers. Nature is full of amazing animal dads who exemplify the meaning of fatherhood with their tremendous sacrifice, commitment, and devotion to their young.
Some of these proud fathers stay with their partners for life, nurturing and raising their babies as cute animal families. Others take the wheel completely, living their lives as single fathers whose top priority is the safety of their children. No matter where you look in nature, be it land, air, or sea, you will find creatures everywhere that represent the great dads of the animal kingdom.
Emus are endemic to Australia and practice polyandry, meaning that they may mate with many different individuals in a relatively short period of time. Males are tasked with incubating the eggs, while females seek more males to lay more eggs. The nests are usually filled with eggs of various male emus, and the father responsible for the nest will incubate all the eggs regardless. Some studies show that over half of all emu clutches are not fertilized by the father. Fathers lose over a third of their body weight as they incubate the eggs without rest, food, or drink for up to nearly two months, and will aggressively defend their young after hatching.
One emu dad was even spotted taking care of 40 chicks.
Emperor penguins live in one of the most hostile environments on Earth, and penguin dads must endure all sorts of challenges when it comes to raising their young. With no supplies to build a nest, they must use their own bodies to keep their young warm. After the female lays an egg, she leaves it with the father to incubate while she feeds. For over a month, the males do nothing but incubate their eggs, huddling together in huge numbers to keep warm.
They stay like this until the eggs hatch, which can take up to 75 days. They don’t eat during this entire time, surviving only on built-up fat stores. By the time the females return to their families, the dads may have been fasting for up to four months. Even though the fathers lose about half of their bodyweight, the mothers often find it difficult to pry their babies away from the dads. Together, the two make sure to keep their baby warm until they grow big enough to survive outside the pouch.
Seahorses are famously known for their unique pregnancies, one of the only instances in the animal kingdom where males give birth to their young. These incredible fish-fathers have a specialized pouch on their bellies which they use to incubate up to 2000 eggs at once.
After hours of mating dances, female seahorses insert their eggs into the males. Then, it's entirely up to the males to take care of their young. About 10 to 25 days will pass before the hatchlings are ready to emerge. During that time, the father will carefully regulate how much salt water they are exposed to. The babies will hatch inside the father's belly and are on their own after they are delivered, allowing dad to take a much needed break.
Same-sex relationships are not exactly rare in the animal kingdom, but the story of two gay penguins who adopted and raised a chick of their own is truly astounding. Jumbs and Kermit, two penguins at the Wingham Wildlife Park in England, were seen pairing together as a mating duo. This is an act that has also been recorded in the wild among other gay penguins. When a mother penguin abandoned her egg, zookeepers decided to give the egg to the adorable couple to see if they were interested in adopting. The two worked together to incubate the egg, which hatched without a hitch.