Here's a look at some of the critters that take part in parenting in extraordinary ways.

Catfish. A father sea catfish keeps the eggs of his young in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. He will not eat until his young are born, which may take several weeks.

Cockroach. A father cockroach eats bird droppings to obtain precious nitrogen, which he carries back to feed to his young.

Marmosets are tiny South American monkeys. The fathers take care of their babies from birth. When the marmoset is born, the father cleans it, then carries it to the mother only when it needs to be nursed. When the baby can eat solid food, the father will feed it.

Rheas are large South American Birds similar to ostriches. Father rhea takes sole care of his young. From eggs to chicks, he feeds, defends, and protects them until they are old enough to survive on their own.

Sandgrouse. A father Namaqua sandgrouse of Africa's Kalahari Desert flies as far as 50 miles a day in order to soak himself in water and return to his nest, where his chicks can drink from his feathers!

Wolf. When the mother wolf gives birth to pups, the father stands guard outside their den and brings food to the mother and pups. As they grow, he not only plays with them but also teaches them how to survive. Wolves continue to live together much as human families do.

Frog. The male Darwin frog hatches his eggs in a pouch in his mouth. He can eat and continue about his business until his tadpoles lose their tails, become tiny frogs, and jump out of his mouth!

Emperor Penguin. A penguin pop balances the mother's egg on the feet. He uses his skin and feathers to protect the egg from a bitter Antarctic cold. Dad goes this for nine weeks - without eating - until the egg is ready to hatch.

Sea Horse. A female sea horse lays her eggs in a pouch located in the front of the male's stomach. The daddy sea horse carries the eggs until they hatch. When the babies are big enough, they swim free.

Baboons. At the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Kenya, wild savanna baboons spend their days lounging next to elephants, antelopes and buffalos. Mother baboons groom their babies and protect them.

But baboon moms aren't on the job alone. Scientists recently made the surprising announcement that many baboon dads also recognize and care for their young. Researchers had assumed that male baboons didn't know which babies were theirs because the males live in groups and have several partners. A three-year study shows that baboon dads recognize, and often protect,t their offspring. By using samples of DNA, the chemical that genes are made of, scientists matched 75 baboon babies with their fathers. Half the dads that were observed stuck around and played Mr. Mom until their babies reached age 3.

With their sharp teeth, male baboons are "designed to be dangerous," says Joan Silk, a professor who worked on the study. "But they can be sweet with infants." What's more, the researchers found that dads don't monkey around about defending their own. They rush to protect their offspring in fights more often than they help other baboon babies.

"Life is pretty tough for young baboons," says Jason Buchan, who was also involved in the study. When the fathers are on the scene, it decreases the babies' chances of getting hurt. The scientists believe some of the ways the male baboons identify their young are by appearance and smell. Silk is thrilled that animal dads show similarities to human dads. Says Silk: "It's always fun to find out that animals are smarter than you thought!"

Source: Elizabeth Winchester, Time for Kids Almanac 2005

Related Topics:  Fathers, Fathers & Daughters, Fathers & Sons, Parenting

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