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The Bay Area fathers among you

by on June 14, 2013

We're going to assume that this papa fox just brought home the bacon. Photo: Bob Pruner.
We're going to assume that this papa fox just brought home the bacon. Photo: Bob Pruner.

This Sunday is a day reserved for celebrating all the wonderful fathers in our lives. Why not take a moment to recognize some of the prominent pops in the Bay Area’s animal kingdom?

8294893212_11f796627f_zThe Stay at Home Dad: Three-spined stickleback

Romantic courtship and parental investment? What a catch! Come spring, the male three-spined stickleback fish busies himself preparing a nest out of twigs, plant debris and mucus. He then engages in a zigzag courtship dance in hopes of attracting a potential mate back to his aquatic abode. Once the eggs have been laid and the female stickleback’s role is complete, she is driven from the nest and the male takes his place guarding the eggs until they hatch. During this time, the male takes full responsibility for the eggs, guarding them from predators and even fanning them with his tail to guarantee adequate oxygen.

o95-RAtYbS9Oo7fEL2D0ghAX_cl4zcS5DErRvus8z7oThe Tough Love Dad: Red Fox

For the first month after his pups are born, male red foxes provide their mate with food every four to six hours while she is confined to the den with the pups. However, it turns out there’s no such thing as a free meal in the animal kingdom either. Red fox pups begin learning their first lesson in independence at about three months old, when a fox father stops bringing food back to the den. Not to worry, dad doesn’t let his pups go hungry; he hides food close to the den and disguises it with leaves and twigs, teaching his young to forage and sniff out the food on their own.

s6gxKM__OHMVeoXdRFQex6VO490svdOEtihjv7OTdDEThe Sacrificial Dad: Honey Bee

You can’t blame the male honeybee if he’s only got one thing on his mind; mating with the queen is the sole reason for his existence. In fact, the male honeybee, or drone, takes his life’s goal so seriously that he’s willing to commit sexual suicide to achieve it. The honeybee’s queen mates only once in her lifetime, using the sperm collected during that one trip throughout the rest of her life. As if dying for the sake of repopulating your colony weren’t dramatic enough, the honeybee’s reproductive ritual actually occurs midair. Though only lasting a few seconds, the drone is fatally injured in the process and falls to the ground to die. Funny that this account never made it into the talk about the birds and the bees.

X4VLkPN6uvFoAX7kdh7wMKP56pOYSMYvmVBdreRs4sIThe Nonexistent Dad: California Whiptail Lizard

Men: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Except the California whiptail lizard appears to have done just that. This all-lady lizard species reproduces asexually through a process called “parthenogenesis,” during which a female self-fertilizes her own eggs. The next generation of this celibate species will have genetic material identical to the mother’s, essentially producing clones. Might as well save the birth announcements, though; it’s always a girl.

tewYCJ1BYtkvtqQpjv_oTMigGVh2pdE-7jlThoeSaTIDeadbeat Dad: North American River Otter

You won’t find this deadbeat dad helping his mate find a suitable den to give birth, nor do they take any part in the process of raising the pups produced there. Female river otters feed, protect and teach their young to swim, all without the aid of the pups’ father. This isn’t for a lack of social structure within the species; in fact, the North American river otter is considered more social than many of his cousins. Male river otters simply seem to prefer the company of other bachelors, hunting and traveling in groups sometimes as large as 17 individuals.


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greg kingery on June 16th, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Always wondered why I identify with otters.

Great article Alex! Very insightful, educational and humourous! Can’t wait to read one from Monterey Bay (that is, submerged in it)! Waiting eagerly for more otter strategy……


Greg and Sally

Naomi on June 19th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Great article Alex! I’m happy others are recognizing the animal papas :)

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