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09 Jul 2019 16:19:36
Most of us have been fortunate enough to have a devoted parent, or even two if we’re lucky! We know how much they’ve sacrificed to care for us; guiding us lovingly into adulthood. At SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, we have four animals who have a lot to teach us about family; let’s unpack their incredible parenting skills.
King Penguin chicks do look like adorable woolly soft toys, but their doting parents go above and beyond to care for their young properly. When the little ones get to six weeks of age, they huddle together in a crèche so their parents can both venture off foraging for food to fill their little one’s hungry bellies. With their chicks clustered together, penguin parents ensure they’re all safe from predators, as well as kept toasty warm.
King Penguins are one of only two penguin species that don’t build nests. Instead – while the chicks hang out, their hardworking parents can be gone looking for food for up to three months at a time. Back at chick central – their babies can lose up to half their body weight while waiting for a feed. And their penguin parental duties continue for 10-13 months until their chicks fledge. The tip of the parenting iceberg? King Penguins carry their eggs and young around on their feet during development.
Let’s call this incredible species GPO for short! These 4-metre long, 8-legged guardians are one of the world’s most dedicated animal parents. Pregnant for 4-5 months, Mum waits until the water temp is just right, then expels the eggs, one at a time, into the sea; 100,000 of them! Once they’re born, Mum spends six months protecting them from predators, stroking her eggs and blowing water over them so they get fresh oxygen. This is incredibly time-consuming, and Mum doesn’t leave their side the entire time.
These savvy parents are great protectors due to their defence tactics. They’re able to change colour; shifting from brown to white, displaying fear, or red, showing anger. These clever cephalopods can also modify the texture of their skin to blend better with their surrounds. What ‘s more awesome is they can even take on deflective markings; darkening around their eyes, suckers, arms and web to make themselves look more menacing. Another way they can shoo-off threat is by releasing a cloud of ink; this blackish-cloud distraction tactic allows them to propel away at speeds of up to 40 km/h. Now that’s a talented and handy (or arm-y parent to have!)
Also known as the Anemonefish, the orange, black and white species was the inspiration for the beloved film ‘Finding Nemo.’ But did you know, there are 28 species of Clownfish, and they come in many colours – we’ve got the black and white ones too. What you may not know is these monogamous pairs are amazing parents in real life. Terrific at teamwork, these fab fish start working hard even before their babies arrive. They painstakingly clean an anemone to convert it into a beautiful nursery; covering their skin with protective mucus to stave off paralysis from anemone stings.
Once the eggs are laid, these dedicated parents tend to them; mouth the eggs to clean the nest and purge dead eggs. They also fan them with their fins to keep them oxygenated and increase the chance of survival. Here’s the amazing part – Anemonefish can change their gender! If the largest female dies, the largest male changes to female; so a single parent may get to be a mother and a father during its lifetime! That’s a whole lot of parenting!
Respect! You’ll never look at these four sea creatures the same way again.