Which animals share parental duties?

6 Answers
Many times the males have nothing to do with raising their offspring. Do the males of any species assume more parental responsibility than the females?

In Betta fish the male also takes care of the young, much as in the seahorses mentioned by Gottam60 In fact in a few fish species this is the norm, the male guards the eggs and the young. In catfish the male even keeps the young fish in his mouth to protect them, and spits them out when it is safe, then gulps them back in when there is danger.

I think some frogs do this too (the male frog keeps the young in his mouth).

Pigeons and doves share parental duties, as do many other birds, including penguins as mentioned. In pigeons and doves the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs to incubate them (keep them warm) and when the eggs hatch they take turns feeding the young.

Rheas (look sort of like small ostriches) are an other example of a bird where the male has a lot of duties, in fact the father Rhea does nearly all the care of the young.


Male penguins assume much of the parental responsibilities. I watched a documentary which followed the penguins in Antarctica through their entire mating ritual.
Starting with their long migrational trek from the ocean to their breeding grounds. After mating, the female lays the egg and passes it over to the male to nurture and keep warm while she goes back to the ocean to feed. The male then hatches the egg and makes the trip back so that the little one can eat. The mother then feeds her chick when the male arrives.

It's quite fascinating really. The males are in full charge of nurturing and hatching the egg. I'm sure there are other species where the male takes responsibility. I know that Eagles mate for life. They choose only one mate and are with them for life, so they would both be responsible for the eaglets when any arrive.


The seahorse does not SHARE parental duties so much as the mother seahorse dumps the fertilized eggs into the male seahorse's pouch, then leaves, after which, she does not recognize him or any of her children should she ever see any of them.

The male seahorse carries the eggs in his belly pouch until the eggs hatch and he "gives birth" to his offspring. Even then, the young seahorses can and do return to his pouch any time they feel threatened or scared. Papa protects them, shows them what to eat, how to do things...he is doing his fatherly job!

Papa only stops protecting his babies when they get too big to fit into his belly pouch anymore. By that time, they are big enough to fend for themselves.


Most mammals don't share parental duties. A general rule of thumb is that most birds form a pair bond and raise their kids together and most mammals leave the rearing to the mothers.

In nature most birds are monogamous, many are even mated for life, but most mammals aren't. Exceptions to this are very few: wolves and gibbons raise together and even mate for life.


We have bluebirds in the back yard all the time, and the males are constantly feeding and keeping watch. Many times, we see the male more active than the female. We've also seen other backyard birds where the male is with the babies, feeding them, so perhaps its a common activity for birds in general.


I saw a documentary on Emperor penguins too. The way the male penguin balances the egg on top of his feet to prevent it from freezing is fascinating. If I recall correctly they can stand there for up to nine weeks without feeding.