By Martha R. Fehl
This male ostrich is serious about defending his youngsters! Photo Courtesy Rhett A. Butler, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.
In the animal kingdom we think of the mother as the one who takes care of her babies. Mammal moms give them milk, but some fathers often do very well, too.
The lion is known as the king of beasts who waits for his mate to return with the kill of the day while he snoozes for as much as 20 hours at a time. He may groom or play with the young cubs while the mother is gone.
Wolves, coyotes, jackals and African wild dogs are usually good dads and take turns in feeding their pups.
In Central and South America, a poison dart frog, after helping care for the fertilized eggs, encourages tadpole young to ride piggy-back with a special secretion, until he leaps into the water and they swim away.
More than 90 percent of all birds have devoted fathers who help raise their babies to maturity.
In the Antarctic, the male emperor penguin incubates the egg and balances it on his feet for the next two months while eating nothing during this time. If mother penguin doesn't come back at feeding time, he can help the baby chick by some secretion from his esophagus.
When sea horses mate, the female sea horse deposits her eggs in the male's pouch on his belly. After they are fertilized and hatch, they emerge from their protective sac and are able to swim away on their own into the sea.
The top award for Father of the Year might go to the male ostrich, who leads his young around for two years.
Like humans, not all animals are attentive and responsible. Each species has good and bad parents, but in general, many animal kingdom dads are excellent fathers.