Animal Dads

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday, so for today’s Story from the Museum Floor, Rowena, Deputy Manager of the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum, takes a look at some of the animal father’s from the animal kingdom.

For more about animals and nature, have a look at the Curator’s blog, Nature Manchester.

Animal Dads

Looking across the millions of species within the animal world, you will find pretty much every type of family and every type of union.

As we humans celebrate Father’s Day, here are just a few of the animal fathers you can find out and about on our galleries, who’s behaviour we value in a parent – nurturing, protecting, sacrificing, playing and teaching.

Emperor Penguin

PenguinEmperor Penguin, Birds Case in Nature’s Library

Once the female Emperor Penguin lays an egg, the male keeps it safe and warm from the harsh Antarctic environment until it hatches and then feeds the chick with a milky substance from his throat. He will huddle together with other dads for warmth until the mothers return from a two-month hunting expedition with a belly full of fish to share with the chick. By the time dad is relieved of his duties he will often have gone for over 100 days without food.


imageCommon Marmoset, Connect Case in Living Worlds

These tiny primates have very variable family set ups, including monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry. Mums usually give birth to twins, which will constitute up to 25% of her body weight at the time of birth – the equivalent of around 3 stone for the average human woman! Unsurprisingly this is a huge physical strain so dad will immediately take on the nurturing role, feeding, grooming and carrying the new-borns throughout their infancy. During this time the usually randy male marmosets will focus only on child rearing.


SwanMute Swan, Symbols Case, Living Worlds

Swans tend to form monogamous relationships that can last for years, often a lifetime, with some species observed in same sex unions, as well as the more common opposite sex unions. Swan parents have a real partnership and very equally shared responsibilities. Mums and dads work together and contribute towards nest building, egg incubation and chick-rearing, and are fierce defenders of the nest.

Strawberry Poison-dart frogs

FrogStrawberry Poison-dart frogs, Vivarium

These amphibian parents work together to raise their tadpoles. Mum lays the eggs, usually around 6 at a time on a leaf. Dad stands guard for up to two weeks, watering and protecting the eggs until the tadpoles hatch.  After they hatch, tadpoles swim onto their mother’s back and are carried to a pool of water to turn into full-fledged frogs. In captivity, it’s occasionally the male who transports the tadpoles.


EmuEmu Egg, Bird Eggs Case, Nature’s Library

During breeding season, male emus will make a rough nest on the ground and then wait to be courted by a female. If things go well she will lay a clutch of eggs, but then it’s often all down to dad. He watches over the incubating eggs for about 60 days, not eating, drinking or pooing.  Once they’ve hatched, dad rears them, teaches them the ways of their world and defends them fiercely until it’s time for them to leave the nest.

Red Fox

FoxRed Fox, Living Worlds Handling Table

Male Red Foxes are doting fathers. For the first month after the Vixen gives birth her partner will supply her with food every 4-6 hours so she can concentrate on nursing the pups and keeping them warm in the den. Once the pups are around 3 months old, dads will encourage them into the wider world, teaching them how to sniff out food and forage by burying it around the den entrance. As the pups develop, dad will spend hours at a time play fighting with his young.

These are just a few of the animal stories from Manchester Museum, why not come in and explore our Natural History collection for yourself!

Rowena McGrath

For more about animals and nature, have a look at the Curator’s blog, Nature Manchester.


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