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A salute to animal fathers.

In the animal kingdom, we usually think of mothers as the caregivers--the ones who protect, feed, and take care of the babies. But that is not always the case. In honor of Father's Day (June 20), we are saluting some very special animal fathers.

The Sea Catfish

The father sea catfish uses his mouth as a nursery! As soon as the mother lays her eggs, the father takes them into his mouth to care for them. Even after the eggs hatch, the babies remain in their father's mouth and continue to grow. During this time, he keeps his mouth closed and does not eat. When the babies are about two inches long, the father opens his mouth and the tiny fish swim away.

The Midwife Toad

When the female midwife toad lays her eggs, they are tied together like two strings of pearls. The father carries these strings on his legs for three to four weeks. He sleeps during the day and hunts for insects at night. He makes sure that the eggs are kept moist by hopping through puddles and wet grass. When it is time, the father midwife goes to the pond and waits for his tadpoles to hatch and swim away.

The Sea Horse

During courtship, the female sea horse transfers her eggs to the father's pouch, located under his tail. The father can carry as many as 200 eggs.

After a month or so, the eggs will hatch. When the babies are ready to be barn, the father finds a sturdy reed and attaches himself to it with his tail. Then he begins to squeeze the muscles in his pouch, releasing a baby with each contraction.

The Emperor Penguin

In the coldest part of winter, when the temperature in Antarctica can reach 40[degrees] below zero, the female emperor penguin lays a single egg. Then she goes off to sea to feed and build her strength.

The father penguin rolls the egg onto the top of his feet and covers it with his belly. Then he stands with hundreds of other father penguins for eight weeks, keeping the egg warm. Unable to hunt or eat, the father loses 40 percent of his body weight during this time.

The female returns just before the chick hatches. Now the father goes off to sea to feed and recover his strength. When he returns, he and the mother care far their chick together. What teamwork!
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Title Annotation:the Sea Catfish, the Midwife Toad, the Seahorse, the Emperor Penguin
Author:Archer, Peggy
Publication:Children's Playmate
Date:May 1, 2004
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