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The Animal Kingdom’s Hardest Working Dads

As we’re celebrating our own dads this Father’s Day weekend, don’t forget that there are plenty of patriarchs in the animal kingdom who deserve to be celebrated, too. Of course, there are some species in the animal world where the fathers do the fertilization duties and are never seen again — but you may be pleasantly surprised by how hands-on certain male animals are when it comes to caring for their young.

Tending the Nest

Mammal moms are special because they give milk, but with animals who don’t suckle their young, there’s no excuse for dads not to give equal care. Some, in fact, do more than half.

Frogs are famous for having terrible parents, both male and female — normally they dump the eggs and leave them to fend for themselves. But some species of amphibians do care for their young, and sometimes it’s the dad who’s in charge.

In many species of dart frogs, the male visits the clutch regularly to keep it moist — something any frog with a bladder can do, so it doesn’t have to be the mom. Then when the eggs hatch into tadpoles, he carries them on his back to a small pool of water that he finds on the forest floor or in the nooks and crannies of plants.

For the Japanese giant salamander, the male fans the nest with his tail, which seems to help keep the water oxygenated. He also agitates the eggs with his head and body, which keeps them from sticking together. And though the fact that he eats some of them may not exactly seem like devotion, researchers note that he chooses the eggs that are dead or infected with mold, which can spread to the rest of the clutch if not removed.

In many species of songbirds, both parents bring food back to the nest for the young, but some bird dads go a lot further. When it comes to the greater rhea — a South American bird who resembles an ostrich or emu — it’s the male who incubates the eggs and raises the chicks. He sits on the nest for up to 40 days ’til the youngsters hatch, and then takes care of them for up to six months, letting them take shelter under his wings to stay safe and comfortable. Males may even adopt lost chicks. And what’s the female doing all this time? She’s off mating with other males and leaving them to raise the kids.

Pregnant Pops

Even safer than a nest is carrying the eggs in your own body, and if you’re not a mammal who comes equipped with a womb, there’s no reason for the guys not to do it.

The most extreme example is the seahorse. The male seahorse has a brood pouch that acts a lot like a mammalian womb. The female deposits her eggs in the pouch, and after the male fertilizes them, they attach to the wall of the pouch, which contains a fluid that provides nutrients and oxygen. After several weeks of gestation, the male undergoes hours of labor to give birth to tiny seahorse babies.

Some dedicated dads have figured out that they can carry their young even without a pouch. The eggs of many frogs and toads are laid in a long string, and males of one species, the midwife toad, wrap the strings of eggs around their legs and carry them ’til they hatch, which can take up to a couple months.

But if your eggs aren’t in a string and you don’t have a pouch, there’s one thing left to do if you’re truly devoted — some animal dads brood their eggs in their mouths. The Southern Darwin’s frog guards the fertilized eggs ’til they hatch, then gathers the tadpoles up and swallows them into his unusually large vocal sac. They spend around 50 days there until they metamorphose into tiny froglets and hop out of his mouth.

Some fish are mouthbrooders as well, and in species like the cardinal fish, it’s the male who does the job. Most mouthbrooders can’t eat while they are carrying the young. Although in the cardinal fish, usually about only 20 little fish are born from the clutch of 40 or so eggs, so he may not be going completely hungry.

Our Mammal Cousins

Some of our fellow mammals are paragons of parental care as well, although, of course. The small primates called marmosets and tamarins are famous for sharing child-raising chores with the whole family, and the fathers are particularly involved. In the pygmy marmoset, for example, the father carries the babies most of the time, relinquishing them to the mother only when they need to nurse.

New York Metro Reptile Expo on Sunday April 19th

Join Us at the NY Metro Reptile Expo in
White Plaines, NY

reptile-expo-flyer

Sunday April 19th
 10:00am- 4:00pm
Westchester County Center
198 Central Ave

White Plains, NY

Just off of I-287 Exit 5
Corner of Central Park Avenue (Rt. 100) and Tarrytown Road
Click here for directions

Admission- cash only
Adults: $10
Children 7-12: $5
Under 7: free

Housing Reptiles in NY

A reptile’s housing can impact its health. In general, a glass tank (vivarium) is appropriate housing for snakes, lizards and young chelonians (turtles & tortoises) as they require high ambient temperatures for optimal health. You will also need a basic understanding of the natural history of the species. Reptiles are ectotherms. They are not “cold blooded” but, unlike mammals, they are unable to generate their own body heat. They therefore rely on external heat sources and regulate their body temperature by behavioral means. In the wild, they bask in the sun to heat up and when they become too hot they seek shade or change their body shape. All reptiles have a “preferred optimum temperature zone” (POTZ), which varies according to species and their native habitats.

Video From Our Reptile Vet in NY

If you are looking to find out more information about reptiles, visit us at the NY Reptile Expo, and be sure to have your reptile receive a complete physical examination by a veterinarian trained in reptile medicine, as we are at the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics. Other helpful sources of information include the websites below:
·  King Snake
·  Association of Reptilian & Amphibian Veterinarians
·  Herp Care Collection
·  Herp Vet Connection

Learn About Our NY Vet Reptile Healthcare 

All reptiles should be examined initially after purchase and then annually by an exotic animal veterinarian. Dietary and environmental requirements should be reviewed. Reptiles should receive a complete physical examination, including a thorough check of the mouth, eyes, skin, and vent. In general, reptiles also should be de-wormed, as most reptiles carry gastrointestinal parasites. Proper preventative medicine can help avoid the development of disease and ensure the lifelong health of your reptile.

Learn About Reptile Nutrition:

All snakes are carnivores (meat eaters). Depending on species, their diet may include rodents, birds, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and even other snakes. Most domestically kept snakes thrive on rodent (mice, rats) prey. Young snakes may initially only accept live food but should introduced to and fed only killed (or, at minimum, stunned) prey, as live prey may injure or kill a snake in the process of feeding. Most snakes fewer than 3 feet long should be fed once weekly. Larger snakes may only accept food every few weeks.

Chelonians and lizards may be herbivores (vegetable eaters, such as green iguanas or desert tortoises) or omnivores (meat and vegetable eaters, such as red-eared sliders) or carnivores (such as most monitors), depending on the species. Any live prey fed should be stunned or killed, and vegetables offered should be varied to help ensure proper balanced nutrition. Many chelonians and lizards also require calcium supplementation and adequate exposure to ultraviolet light to ensure vitamin D formation in their bodies to enable calcium and phosphorus absorption from their food.

 

Why Unusual Pets Need Exotic Animal Vets

“Calm down,” I told the distraught client pacing back and forth in the exam room, gesturing frantically at a large cat sitting quietly in his carrier. Finally, he managed to convey to me, in broken English, that the cat wasn’t the problem. He unzipped a small bag to reveal a tiny, unconscious monkey who had nothing but a bloody stump in place of one of his hands. He said the monkey had seizured and scared the cat, who had in turn bitten off the monkey’s hand. The upshot was that he wanted me to retrieve the missing body part and sew it back on!

I was an intern, only two weeks out of veterinary school, and alone in New York City at one of the largest animal hospitals in the United States. I was the first overnight doctor in my class — a dreaded honor — working by myself at 2 a.m. Dogs and cats I could handle, but monkeys? I was definitely not prepared.

Veterinarians vs. Physicians

Unlike human doctors who learn to care for only one species — people — veterinarians are taught to care for many species, including cats, dogs, horses, cows, pigs, sheep and goats. While veterinary schools focus on these familiar animals, only a limited number of schools teach about the less common species kept as pets, such as birds, rodents, rabbits, reptiles and amphibians. Even fewer schools teach about really unusual pets, such as chinchillas, hedgehogs and sugar gliders. Yet when veterinary students graduate, they are expected to know how to treat any type of pet that walks — or is carried — through their practice doors. The truth is, though, that the veterinarian in question may have little to no training in caring for any of these species.

In addition, unlike physicians who are taught to specialize in specific medical fields, such as cardiology or dermatology, veterinarians are taught to be jacks-of-all-trades, performing surgery and dentistry, administering all classes of medications, teaching preventive medicine and doing postmortem examinations. Veterinarians are very smart people, but it is hard enough to be proficient in these skills when working on a single species, no less on multiple ones!

Specializing in Exotic Pet Care

While veterinarians theoretically may treat any exotic pet species (as long as that species is legal to own), unless they have advanced postgraduate training, they cannot call themselves bird, small mammal, reptile/amphibian or zoo animal specialists.

I spent a month during my vet school internship in the exotic pet department, seeing all the different animals I would ultimately have to treat on my own. In the end, I realized I needed to learn more, so I stayed on for a two-year residency in bird and exotic animal medicine and surgery. At the end of my residency, I took a grueling three-day board examination to become a bird specialist. Currently, there are only about 150 such specialists worldwide.

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