Thursday, April 01, 2010

Single Dads?

Those would be cassowaries, large flightless birds found in New Guinea and northeastern Australia:

The breeding season starts in May or June. Females lay three to eight large, dark bright green or pale green-blue eggs in each clutch into a prepared heap of leaf litter.[8] These eggs measure about 9 by 14 centimetres (3.5 by 5.5 in) — only Ostrich and Emu eggs are larger. The female does not care for the eggs or the chicks but moves on to lay eggs in the nests of several other males. The male incubates the eggs for 50–52 days, removing or adding litter to regulate the temperature, then protects the brown-striped chicks who stay in the nest for about nine months, defending them fiercely against all potential predators, including humans.

Here's a picture of a dad and his chicks:

I realized that I find it hard not to view the male bird as the mother! Either I'm applying traditional human gender roles to these birds or defining the more hands-on (claws-on?) type of parenting as "mothering" rather than "fathering."

An example of the sneaky effects of our cultural indoctrination.

It can also be interesting to speculate about why the cassowaries' sexual division of labor is advantageous for them.