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In nature, dads often get a bad rap. There are lots of male animals that are absentee fathers, and who provide little to nothing in the way of “child care.”

But there are some unsung heroes in the animal kingdom: fathers who fly solo after moms leave them behind with the kids. Why do these devoted dads raise their young all by themselves? Scientists are just beginning to uncover the answers to this evolutionary mystery.

The male seahorse is well known for being the parent to get “pregnant,” holding the fertilized eggs in his stomach pouch while they develop. And this devoted dad isn’t alone. A distant relative, the broad-nosed pipefish also becomes a pregnant papa, carrying his brood until they hatch and swim away.

Emperor penguin fathers have incredible endurance. They suffer through some the harshest conditions on Earth while balancing a fragile egg on their feet! In the fierce winter storms of Antarctica, they brave the cold, wind and darkness to protect their precious cargo until it hatches in the spring.

Other fathers go a step further, nurturing their kids even after they’re born. The brilliant-thighed poison dart frog acts as the family minivan, packing up his tadpoles on his back to transport them to a larger pool when their own pool dries up.

MORE:
Meet some of the most devoted dads in the animal kingdom
What some unusual dads taught me about fatherhood

Some of the most devoted dads in the world may not be who you’d expect. After females lay their eggs in his nest, the male emu will incubate his clutch for eight weeks while hardly eating, drinking or going to the bathroom. And once his babies hatch, his job isn’t over. He’ll care for his young for up to 18 months, protecting them and teaching them everything they need to know about emu life.

Exactly why these dads, and others like them, take on raising the kids by themselves has yet to be discovered. But perhaps it’s time we celebrate these incredible Stay-At-Home Animal Dads.

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