Paternal care: which male animals make the best fathers?

Which male animals make the best fathers? 

In the animal kingdom, there are many examples of mothers taking sole care of their young, and many examples of both parents raising their young together, but there are also father animals who solely look after their young. 

When mothers look after babies, it is called maternal care. When fathers look after babies, it is called paternal care. 

Big Bellied Seahorse

One animal species in which only the father looks after the young is the seahorse. 

The Seahorse (genus Hippocampus) is a marine (saltwater) fish in the Syngnathidae family. It is a teleostfish. 

The female Seahorse transfers her eggs to the male. She squirts her eggs through an opening in the front of his dilated pouch. The male looks after 300-700 young at a time. 

Another species in which only the father looks after the young is the Arapaima (Arapaima gigas), which is a freshwater bonytongue fish. 

The female Arapaima lays eggs in a nest in the muddy bottom of shallow rivers and lakes. Both the male and the female make the nest. The male looks after the eggs for about three months, then they hatch into young, called fry. It is a mouthbreeder, so the father looks after the young by putting them in his mouth (he does not eat them). The mother keeps guard. 

Other mouthbreeding fish also have great fathers. 

In all species in which the father is the sole carer, there are three reasons for paternal care. 

In every species with paternal care, they have: (1) eggs (not live young), (2) external fertilization in which sperm fertilizes the eggs outside of the mother’s body, and (3) the animal forms breeding pairs (not groups or colonies). 


Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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