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What Does Parenting Look Like in Nature?

Ever wondered what parenthood looks like when it comes to the animal kingdom? From mouthbrooding to live births, parenting takes many different forms depending on the species. Here are a few interesting examples among the animals you might see on your next Aquarium visit:

Box Turtles

Box turtle crawling over substrate at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Box turtles are an egg-laying animal. After breeding, the female will bury the eggs on shore, leaving them to hatch and fend for themselves. Did you know the temperature of the environment where the eggs are laid determines whether they emerge as male or female?

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Black-Naped Fruit Doves

Black-naped fruit doves sitting in a nest at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
This species splits parenting responsibilities between the male and female, with each bird taking turns looking after the nest while the other forages. That vigilant care is important, as the female often lays just a single egg that needs 18-26 days to incubate.

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Surinam Toads

Surinam toad sitting still underwater at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Fun fact, Surinam toads are actually frogs despite their misleading name. Their intrigue doesn’t end there—these frogs have a particularly interesting reproduction cycle. After breeding, female Surinam toads embed the eggs on their backs and carry them until they hatch. Instead of tadpoles, offspring emerge as fully metamorphosed little frogs.

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Cichlids

Eartheater cichlid swimming at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Cichlids like this red-striped eartheater are mouthbrooders—this means they carry their offspring in their mouths until they are mature enough for independence. It may look strange to humans, but these fish will let their offspring forage for food before sucking them back up if the parent feels threatened. This close-quarters parenting gives offspring a better chance of survival.

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Stingrays

Stingray giving birth in shallow water.
One of just a few animals that give live births at the Aquarium, stingrays like the one above will carry their young for 11-12 months. Most of the time they give birth to just one pup, who is then left completely independent. While it takes a bit longer for the pups to fully mature, they enter the world with a fully formed barb ready to deter any possible threat.

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SHELL-ebrate the curious moms and dads in your life at Greater Cleveland Aquarium during Mother’s Day Weekend and Father’s Day Weekend.

For more fun, parent-themed animal facts, check out the video below:

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