Unfortunately animal dads frequently get a bad rap. The male of the species is often the "lone wolf" type, who does not live with the females or take part in the raising of young. Of course there are several exceptions to this. One particularly interesting one comes from an underwater habitat in Japan.
|Japanese giant salamander (Y. de Hoev. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)|
The salamander dads fan their tails over the eggs to oxygenate the water surrounding the eggs. Researchers found that in artificial den situations with lower oxygen levels the salamanders fanned their tails more vigorously to make up for the low oxygen conditions. The salamanders moved, or agitated the eggs with their heads and bodies. Researchers believe this prevents yolk from sticking to the sides of the eggs and causing the salamander embryos to develop incorrectly. Lastly, the male salamanders ate some of the eggs. It is not uncommon for males, and even females, to be egg cannibals. However, in this case the salamander dads only seemed to munch eggs that were cloudy and most likely dead, unfertilized or moldy. It is thought that this protects the other eggs from infection.
|Japanese giant salamander pair (photo by V31S70)|
It may be possible that the Japanese giant salamander has relatives, such as the hellbender and the Chinese giant salamander, that exhibit similar paternal behaviors. These new details may help in conservation efforts to save dwindling populations of the Japanese giant salamander. Population numbers have dropped due to habitat loss and hunting.
- DOGO News: "Ancient Japanese Salamanders Win Top Marks for being Awesome Dads"
- Wired: "Japanese Giant Salamanders Are Devoted Dads"
- Journal of Ethology: "Paternal care behaviors of Japanese giant salamander Andrias japonicus in natural populations" (Abstract)
Amphibian and animal dad links and resources:
- National Zoo Japanese Giant Salamander Fact Sheet
- Animal Planet: Top 10 Animal Dads
- Nova: Kingdom of the Seahorse- Animal Super Dads
- National Wildlife Federation: Top 10 Animal Dads
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums: Metamorphosis Matching Activity