In the animal world, which pops are tops? Check out our list. Some may surprise you!
Most Dedicated Dad - Emperor Penguin
If you've watched The March of the Penguins, then you've already got a pretty good idea about how dedicated both mother and father emperor penguins are. I mean, they'd have to be in order to raise their helpless chicks in such an extreme arctic environment. However the father deserves special props for fulfilling his species' tough paternal duties. Once an egg is laid, the mother leaves for two months to seek some well-needed nourishment while the father makes every possible effort to keep the egg warm and safe from the battering winds and the bitter cold. This entails keeping the egg carefully balanced beneath the "brood pouch" between his legs, and moving very little (often times eating absolutely nothing) for the entire season so as not to break the delicate egg or risk it being exposed to the air, which could freeze the unhatched chick in a matter of minutes. He'll remain like this all winter long, even at the risk of starving himself, while awaiting his mate to return.
Best Single Dad - Rhea
Rheas are relatives of the ostrich and emu, and the males of this species of flightless bird often get a bad rap as the "players" of the animal kingdom. Sure, they're not much for monogamy, but no one can accuse them of being deadbeat dads. They mate with several females, but the father assumes all child-rearing duties entirely on his own--including incubating the egg right after it's laid. Since they're quite, ahem, fond of the ladies, they typically incubate 10-60 eggs at a time! Once they hatch, he'll take care of the chicks (without help from the moms), keeping them safe until they're ready to leave the nest.
Most Protective Dad - Wolf
Unlike the rhea (mentioned above), male wolves mate with one she-wolf for life, and they both raise their pups together as one happy family. Like the rhea, wolf fathers are extremely protective of their young, and will risk all to fend predators away from their den. Also, unlike other fathers in the animal kingdom who reserve most of the food for themselves, wolf fathers are known to be quite generous when it comes to doling out the pups' share of the kill.
Best Kid-Carrying Dads - Frogs, Hard headed Catfish, Seahorses
It turns out that there are a good number of animal dads who carry their kids (or eggs!) with them wherever they go, mainly for purposes of protection. For example, some frog fathers have special pouches within which they carry their young, in order to keep them safe until they're ready to fend for themselves. Some species of frogs (without pouches) even carry their tadpole offspring in their mouths to protect them from becoming prey—even if this means going hungry until the kids are ready to leave. Similarly, the hard headed catfish male carries fertilized eggs in his mouth for 60 days, during which time he'll forego his favorite meals. And of course we can't leave out the male seahorse who famously carries all eggs in a pouch until they reach full term, and then the "pregnant" father "births" them after they've hatched!
Best Homemaker Dad - Jacana
While mother jacana bird is out migrating (or remating), father is home incubating her eggs in the nest that he built. If danger comes, he'll even transport his eggs to safety. He'll be content with his role of stay-at-home dad even after the eggs hatch so he can raise the chicks until they're ready to take flight.
Most Supportive Dad - Pygmy Marmoset
Not only are pygmy marmoset monkeys some of the cutest animals on the planet, but the males of the species also deserve a place on our list of awesome dads. It's not just because of the way they care for their young, but for the way they support their babies' mama! Right when the young are born, papa marmoset takes over by grooming the little ones so that his mate can recoup from the strain of carrying and bearing offspring. And why is mom so pooped? Probably because newborn marmosets are incredibly hefty in size, relative to their poor mothers, that is. According to primatologist Jeff French, "It's like a 120-pound (55-kilogram) woman giving birth to a 30-pound (14-kilogram) baby.” Thankfully, dad comes to the rescue by carrying the babies piggy back (sometimes four at a time!) while he goes about his duties, and returning them to their mother when it's time for them to nurse.
Best Provider for the Family - Great Horned Owl
Now here's a dad that really knows how to bring home the bacon...or, mice, rather. Great horned owl dads provide very well for their large families—and when we say large, we're not just talking about numbers. A mother owl is about 25% larger in sizethan the male, meaning she needs a whole lot of nourishment in order to stay healthy while she nurses her young. Of course female owls are themselves adept hunters and both parents share the burden of bringing food home to the nest while mom isn't tending to eggs and chicks. However, once the eggs are laid, the job of provider falls solely upon the male who'll have to work overtime to bring home enough food for his mate. Once the chicks hatch, daddy owl will continue on as sole provider for the entire household about a month. This is about the time when mom can once again (to dad's relief!) start leaving the nest to help hunt rats, mice, and other meaty morsels.
Honorable Mention: Namaqua Sandgrouse
Finally, we'd like to give a Best Provider Honorable Mention to the Namaqua Sandgrouse dad who rears his family in the desert where life-giving water is scarce. Since his chicks can't go to the water sources themselves, he brings water to them by soaking up the precious H2O in his super absorbent feathers. He then carries this very heavy load to his kids who'll drink it right off of him!
Bravo to all the devoted dads of the animal world! That includes you too, humans.