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Some Animals Make Stellar Stepdads, Science Says

First Posted: Jun 17, 2017 12:00 PM EDT
The New Arrivals At Port Lympne Wild Animal Park
A baby baboon plays with its mother at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. (Image for representation only.)
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

It is Fathers' Day weekend and it is time for everyone to appreciate the family patriarch. The rest of the animal world, however, hold's no such holiday. In fact, in the wild, males tend to kill the young of others and replace them with their own. Lions and dolphins are among those that are known to do this.

Yet, there are some animals that do have a more paternal side. As National Geographic noted, some animals not only let their rival's offspring live but they even go so far as to take care of them. Among such animals include orcas, Galapagos hawks and saddleback tamarins.

Of course, some animals -- birds in particular -- make jerky stepdads. Mental Floss pointed out that Southern pied babblers, for instance, would push their stepsons out if it means they can promote their biological children to positions of power.

But why would any animal (or human, for that matter) spend energy on babies that are not his own? It is time to appreciate the role of stepdads in the animal kingdom, and interestingly enough, the same psychology could be applied to human stepdads as well.

David C. Greary, an evolutionary psychologist from the University of Missouri, shared that some animals actually do care for family obligations. He said that for these animals, "if there is some chance the infant might be his," then it is worth protecting and raising.

Posing as a stepdad to a female's infant can also be a way of forming a special bond with her, which then "increases his future matings with her." In some cases, a male might even be able to develop a kind of "friends with benefits" situation with a female or two in a group. This behavior is apparent in baboons. Females with kids often harassed by males can find security in a protector. In turn, the female can also reward the protector in helping with his own offspring.

Finally, being a nice guy can also help form other social relationships, and some animals are very social that things like boosting morale can play an important role in the community. With this being taken into consideration, Kerchak may have looked like an unaccepting dad to Tarzan. But with all things considered, he still did not leave him alone in the jungle to be eaten by other animals -- and that makes him pretty good of a stepfather.

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