Parental care is an innate, subconscious impulse amongst most living things in the natural world. The need to take care of one’s progeny is a very strong instinct for many species: this is essential and plays a crucial role in ensuring that the next generation gets a chance at survival and makes it through to adulthood. The methods of parenting vary widely, but in general, one could probably classify them into two types: single parenting and dual parenting.
Single parenting is when the onus falls completely on one of the partners, either male or female. This is quite common in the natural world, more so than the dual parenting scenario. In most cases, this responsibility rests with the female of the species. Dual parenting is when both the parents share the responsibility of taking care of their young ones.
Many birds, like this lovely Crimson-backed Sunbird, follow dual parenting. With multiple hungry mouths to feed, the male and the female take turns flying out and bringing back food, like clockwork. Here, the male returns with some food for the eagerly awaiting chicks.
Great Hornbills are another species that display dual parenting. The roles of the male and the female are extremely crucial in the whole process. In the initial days of the nesting period, the female is literally interred in a small hole in a tree. She and her chicks are solely dependent on the male bringing in food, which he does very diligently. The male feeds them through the narrow slit in the nest cavity, their only contact point for a couple of months until the young one is sufficiently grown up. The female leaves the nest from then on, and both the parents now take turns feeding their progeny.
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-larks also display dual parenting, with the male and the female taking turns at feeding their young ones. Here, a male feeds his chick by picking up grains one by one, even as the aggressively hungry chick demands for more – a tough job indeed.
Night frogs (of the genus Nyctibatrachus) are an example of the single parenting model. After the female lays the eggs (usually a clutch) and leaves, it is up to the father to guard them and ensure that they develop into tadpoles. The males can be seen guarding the eggs and announcing their presence to the other frogs around every now and then.
The next single parent is the ever-busy Leafcutter Bee. The female goes about the task of preparing a cosy nest for her future children. She even stocks some source of food for the young ones that will hatch out of the eggs she lays. The busy parent can be seen here readying her nest for parenthood.
The female Green Lynx Spider is known to take care of her eggs until they hatch. She further keeps a watch on her young ones until they are big enough to fend for themselves. The image below shows the mother watching over her newly hatched spiderlings.
The art of parenting is a very powerful instinct and an essential component in continuing the circle of life. Creatures of the natural world have some wonderful ways of expressing this behaviour. Nature is amazing indeed and shows us that something we tend to attribute only to human beings and larger mammals is very much a part of every creature’s life.