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Non-human fatherhood

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Animals · Animal ethology · Comparative psychology · Animal models · Outline · Index


For some animals, it is the fathers who take care of the young.

  • Darwin frog (Rhinoderma darwini) fathers carry eggs in the vocal pouch.
  • The female seahorse (hippocampus) deposits eggs into the pouch on the male's abdomen. The male releases sperm into the pouch, fertilizing the eggs. The embryos develop within the male's pouch, nourished by their individual yolk sacs.

Fathers in other species assist mothers with caring for the young.

  • Wolf fathers help feed, protect, and play with their pups. In some cases, several generations of wolves live in the pack, giving pups the care of grandparents, aunts/uncles, and siblings, in addition to parents.
  • Dolphin fathers help in the care of the young.
  • A number of bird species have active, caring fathers who assist the mothers.

Most species, though, display little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. The male leaves the female soon after mating and long before any offspring are born. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young.

  • A male bear leaves the female shortly after mating and will kill and sometimes eat any bear cub he comes across, even if the cub is his. Bear mothers spend much of their cubs' early life protecting them from males. (Many artistic works, such as advertisements and cartoons, depict kindly "papa bears" when this is the opposite of reality.)
  • Domesticated dog fathers show little interest in their offspring, and unlike wolves, are not monogamous with their mates and are thus likely to leave them after mating.
  • Male lions will tolerate cubs, but only allow them to eat meat from dead prey after they have had their fill. Some are quite cruel towards their young and may hurt or kill them with little provocation. A male who kills another male to take control of his pride will also usually kill any cubs belonging to that competing male.


Finally, in some species neither the father nor the mother provides any care


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