In only around 10% of mammal species do males spend quality time with their young. The species that developed paternal care have some advantages over species that don’t. One of them is the bat-eared fox.
Pops in this species are so dedicated that males spend even more time than females near the dens that house their offspring. These furry fathers play a role in nearly every aspect of child-rearing: grooming cubs’ silky fur, engaging them in play and teaching them to stalk terrestrial insects with their bat-wing-shaped ears (which can grow up to five inches long—nearly 30 percent of their total height).
And this commitment pays off: The amount of time bat-eared fox fathers spend monitoring their young is an even bigger predictor of pup survival than maternal investment or food availability. Dads, at least in this species, matter.
It’s not just mammals. Among the 20% of fish species that take care of their hatchlings, most of them are raised mainly by their fathers. Scientists have been studying the reasons for paternal care, the chemical mechanisms that contribute to the behavior, and the outcomes for various species. Read about that research at Smithsonian.
(Image credit: Derek Keats)