Thursday, April 9, 2009

When Animal Mothers Suck (Part 2)

My favorite animal dad, I feel, is the best provider a male can be. He is the Von der Decken's Hornbill.
"What do you want, honey?" He asks the mother of his children, "A safe place to live? You got it." He then whisks her away to a tree hole where he seals her in save for a little hole he can fit his beak into.
"What do you want to eat today, dear?" He lovingly asks, "Some nuts perhaps? I'll go and get you some. You just sit tight and relax." He then flies away only to return with the finest food nature has to offer, sticking it through the hole in the tree.
"Are you scared, my sweet?" He reassures, "I am here all night and will protect you from the fiercest creatures." The male Von der Decken's Hornbill sits by the nest and caters to the female day in and day out. Once the babies start to outgrow the nest, it's time for mother and father to both go out and search for food, but dad will always be on high alert to protect his family. Awwwww.
But nothing screams devotion quite like the Emperor Penguin.
Try balancing something on your feet for 64 days straight in extremely freezing temperatures. That's what these dads do. They barely move while not eating for 64 days. The egg is balanced atop their feet to keep it away from the snowy ground and in order to stay warm themselves, all the dads huddle together. Meanwhile, the mom is out swimming, eating as much fish as possible. And if she doesn't make it back in time for the chick's first meal, the dad will regurgitate any food he has left in his empty belly for his baby.
Many people would say that the best animal dad is the Seahorse. Why is this?
Because he's the one that ends up giving birth? That's not a very good reason...though watching the video below might convince you otherwise. Popping out a baby seahorse looks very painful and very time consuming.

Monday, April 6, 2009

When Animal Mothers Suck (Part 1)

It's assumed that in the animal kingdom, the mothers are the nurturers, the lovers, the selfless general, the all around greater sex. Females are associated with home and family, life and perhaps love.
There are classic examples of motherhood at its finest within the mammalian community. The mammal mother is warm and thoughtful, who loves her progeny but is sure to teach and discipline when needed.
The only job of the male is to produce something shiny and distracting in hopes of getting a mate to be the mother of his shiny offspring.
And for the most part, the father is off with a sweet new thing when the deed is done, right? Yes...for the most part. However, there are some outstanding fathers out there who think not of themselves first or their penis, but their future little ones.
The first of which is the Antechinus.
Well actually...this dude does think with his penis, but he does have the best intentions for furthering his gene pool. These little marsupials live in Australia and New Guinea and only live long enough to breed once. That's why the male needs to do it to it as much and as long as marsupially possible. He will go from one female to the next and so on in a single night, eventually becoming so exhausted, his immune system does not function properly and he dies. Essentially, the Antechinus sacrifices himself (and the hope of possibly more sex in the future) for his offspring. And with most of the females of this species eating their young, you gotta spread your seed around to make sure it reaches one good mother out there, right?
Next is the Marmoset. Cute little guys.
Marmosets are the smallest primates in the world and live in South America. The dads of these species get an A because when tiny mother is done nursing the twins, dad steps up and does the raising. He cleans them and looks after them, carrying them only back to mom when they need a boob. And when the babies start to eat solid food, dad makes sure they get plenty of it. Meanwhile, the mom's out having a good time with the neighbor. What a stand up guy!
Then there is the Jacana.

This guy does everything! First, he builds the nest. Then when a female comes around and he's lucky enough to reel her in, they will mate, she will lay the eggs, and then she will leave. Off to get some action from another male, the mom Jacana has no further interest in her brood. That's when dad comes into play. Despite abandonement by his former flame, the male Jacana will incubate the eggs and protect them from danger (including the mom). Since the nests are built on marshy vegetation, they tend to sink. If this happens, the male Jacana will simply carry each egg under his wing to a more suitable site. If the eggs are lost, mom will return and try again with her baby's daddy, lay her eggs, and then promptly leave him again. And when the eggs finally hatch (they might not even be his biological offspring), father takes them all out for swimming and eating lessons...he'll also still tuck them under his wings if that crazy bitch of a mother ever rears her ugly head again!