Other mammals that make great fathers.
There are many mammals who have no paternal role in raising their offspring, beyond donating genetic material. There are a few notable exceptions to the rule in nature. These mammalian fathers break out of the traditional love ‘em and leave ‘em role to have a positive and lasting effect on their offspring.
The role of the father in a wolf pack starts before the pups are even born, and it is often a life-long commitment. A wolf pack initially forms when a male and a female meet and choose to mate. The father of the subsequent pups is known as the Alpha male, and the female is the Alpha female. The male of this pair provides sustenance for his mate both towards the end of her pregnancy and while she is busy caring for and feeding the newly birthed pups. He does this both by protecting her and hunting for her. As the puppies grow, wolf fathers are active in playing with them and teaching hunting and survival skills. Although some of the pups will grow up and leave the pack, either to start their own packs or to join other packs, many of them remain with their original pack until the day that they die. Earlier litters generally become active in helping him raise their younger siblings as the grow into adults themselves.
Radical Red Foxes
Red Foxes are another great mammalian father. Although the family groups of foxes are much smaller than that of the wolves, there are some similarities. They provide protection and food for their mates while the kits are young, as the mother cannot leave them for the first 2-3 weeks until the kits are able to regulate their own body temperatures. The fathers are also very active in teaching them to hunt and survive as they get older. Both parents will bring live food back to the kits as teaching tools. When they reach adulthood the males will generally go their own way, but daughters will often stay with their mother and father for many years, and assist in providing food for new kits and territorial defense.
The Marmoset is a tiny monkey that lives exclusively in Brazil. They are usually born in pairs, and each pair at birth is generally a quarter of the mother’s weight. This would be equivalent to a 120 pound woman giving birth to twins that were somewhere around 15 pounds each. This takes a lot out of the mom, as does the energy just to make sure there is enough milk for her offspring. In order to ease the burden of the mother marmoset, dad pitches right in. He helps at the birthing by helping the mother clean up and sometimes even biting off the umbilical cord. After they are born the father is the one who takes on the majority of the care for the little ones by grooming and carrying them, with the help of his extended family. He even ensures that they are fed once they are no longer nursing.
Beavers are another type of mammal that work together to care for their young. Although the young stay with their mother for the first month, fathers are just as active as mothers in maintaining their dens and marking and defending their territories. They also help teach the young beavers essential life skills. They teach their kits when they are very young and for up to two years after they are born. This includes lessons in building, foraging, and even in parenting skills. These industrious parents have been known to have up to ten additional members in their homes at one time, most often made up of their offspring. The patriarch of a beaver dam in Martinez, CA was dealt a blow in 2010 when his mate died of an infection, leaving him with three young kits to care for. Not only did all three kits survive to adulthood under his care, they thrived. Fortunately for his family, he didn’t quit there. He has since found a new mate. They had one kit in 2012 and three in 2013. Although beavers are very territorial, they are known to be less aggressive to their kin even after they have grown to adulthood and staked out their own territories.
Patient Prairie Voles
Although not entirely monogamous, prairie voles do pair bond. It’s the animal kingdom equivalent of an extremely devoted but open marriage. The male prairie vole only bonds once and does not look for a new partner even if his partner dies. Like the other fathers on this list, he assists in the care and feeding of his partner’s young, as well as protecting them and helping to provide shelter. Unlike most animals, he sometimes ends up raising the young who have no genetic contribution from him. This little guy grooms them and protects them, no matter who their biological father is. As long as they come from his partner, he considers them his charges and takes care to ensure they grow to adulthood healthy and ready for life.
Wolverines are well known to be busy and cantankerous. What isn't as well known is that they make great (if grumpy) dads. Unlike most of the great dads on this list, they are not monogamous, and often take a great deal of time out of their incessant roaming to visit the young of each of the two or three mates they have per season. Researchers have also seen anecdotal evidence that these unexpectedly attentive fathers even take it to another level and help in the survival education of their adolescents as they grow up, and long after they have left their dens.
So lets hear it for the stand up guys, both human and non-human. Fathers that stick around, from the tiny to the tough, help their kids grow up to be more effective and resilient adults. Thank you to all the great dads out there!