Michael Ellis

While there are a whole lot of male humans that are active fathers, most male mammals don’t help to raise or care for their young. Only about 10% of all mammals are monogamous but about 90 % of all birds are. Why the difference? Well it makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. When a female bird lays an egg, the egg has to be incubated. Both the male and the female have the capability of keeping the egg warm. When the baby hatches mom and dad can collect and shove insects or worms into the yawning cavity. Both parents can contribute to the survival of the offspring; this helps insure that their genes are passed on.

Mammals are a different story. There is no way a male can help a female mammal bring the youngster into the world. The baby develops within the female and then, once it is born, it feeds the mothers milk. There isn’t much males can do to help in this situation. So there is a distinct advantage for males to cruise the neighborhood and attempt to mate with as many females as possible and let them raise all your offspring. There are exceptions of course. In the ostriches the males mate with more than one female. Each female lays its eggs in a communal nest. The male then incubates the eggs alone and then is solely responsible for caring of the 15 little fuzz balls that hatch.

In most of the dog family (foxes, wolves, coyotes), the males play an integral role in caring for and raising the young. Family groups are tight and last for years.And then there are humans… dad usually sticks around, at least for a while because human babies require a great deal of attention the first years after birth. This job falls primarily to the mother. The fathers role is to provide a safe, secure environment with plenty of food and adequate shelter. Fathers may or may not take an active role in caring for the very young but they certainly help teach the skills necessary for adulthood.

As I celebrate my seventh Father’s day, I rejoice that I was not born as a fish. As a human I have had the pleasure and pain of helping to raise my offspring. It is the most important job of my life, to insure that 1/2 of my genetic material makes it to adulthood as a sane, productive member of the community. And so far, so good.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.



Posted on

November 18, 2010