Born to be wild: How different animals care for their young

The animal kingdom is full of unique behaviors and amazing adaptations, including how parents care for their babies.

Some animal parents — like lizards and snakes — have a more hands-off approach, leaving their babies to fend for themselves in the elements. But others have great parental instincts and many unique ways of caring for their young.

A baby joey hangs out in its mother’s pouch at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Kangaroos are marsupials, a group of mammals that usually keeps their babies in a pouch at the beginning of life.

Kangaroo babies, called joeys, are born after only a few weeks of development, and they’re still not ready to live on their own. A newborn joey looks more like a bright red bean than a kangaroo.

According to the Australia Zoo, a joey is blind and hairless, and its hind legs aren’t fully grown, so it can’t walk. But it has two strong front legs, which it uses to crawl up the thick fur of its mother’s abdomen and into her pouch.

In the pouch, it can be safe, warm, and able to drink its mother’s milk as it continues to grow.

The baby kangaroo then spends about six months in the pouch. According to National Geographic, It will stick its head out of the pouch to check out its surroundings during the last few weeks.

Finally, the joey will make its exit from the pouch and begin to explore the world on its own. It returns to the pouch occasionally to nurse, but after a few months the kangaroo can eat on its own, and leaves the pouch for good.

A mother feeds its baby emperor penguin at the polar house of the Laohutan Ocean Park in Dalian, a coastal city in northeast China’s Liaoning Province. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Tao)

Emperor penguins

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Happy Feet,” you know the unique way penguins care for their eggs on the windy, icy terrain of Antarctica.

Although most birds species have the mother be the one to watch the eggs and keeps them warm, for penguins, that responsibility falls to the dad.

According to Australian Antarctic Project, emperor penguins return by the thousands to the same place every year to find their mates and lay an egg for the winter. Males have elaborate songs, walks and calls to try to woo a female.

After she lays her egg, a penguin mother leaves it with the father and goes to the sea to hunt. The egg is kept under a skin flap between the father’s feet, where it can stay warm even as the temperatures fall to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

During the more than two months it takes to hatch the egg, the male penguins don’t eat anything and brave the freezing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the penguins will lose around half their body weight as they rely on fat reserves from the summer to keep them alive.

When the mothers return, they locate their mates out of the hundreds of males in the group and take the newborn chick back from the father. From then on, both parents hunt to feed the chicks as they grow.

After about four months, the chicks are able to hunt by themselves, and the parents stop feeding them. Eventually, they’ll make their way back to the ice and lay their own eggs.

A common clownfish in an aquarium in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)


The bright orange and white stripes of the clownfish are recognizable from “Finding Nemo,” and these animals also have a strange and unique parenting style.

Clownfish, also known as anemonefish because of their unique habitats, live in groups of males and one female, but only one pair of the group will create fertilized eggs. The unique part of a clownfish is it can be both male and female throughout its life.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, all clownfish start out male, but they become female as they mature. If the main female in a group dies, another male will become female and take her place.

Clownfish lay their eggs in sea anemones, according to Live Science, which have tentacles that can sting any predator that might want to eat the eggs.

Clownfish are covered in a mucus that prevents them from being stung by the anemone’s tentacles, and in return for protection, the clownfish protects the anemone from predators and parasites.

After the female clownfish lays her eggs, the male will spend a lot of time fanning the eggs to encourage hatching. Males also stay near the egg clutch to protect it from predators.

Unlike in the “Finding Nemo” movie, clownfish parents don’t spend much time with their babies after they hatch. The babies quickly set off into the open ocean to find food on their own.

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