Do Animals Have A Sense Of Family?

August 17, 2023


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There are countless species in the animal kingdom, all of which are unique to each other in how they move, breathe, adapt, and, most importantly, reproduce! Each animal species reproduces and cares for its young differently, but some are much better at the concept of “parenthood” than others.

Read below to learn more about some of the earth’s MOST and LEAST involved animal parents, many species of which you can see right here at Adventure Aquarium!


1. Sharks

While female sharks do go out of their way to reproduce, when it comes to providing parental care to their pups after birth, they are a little less committed. In fact, no shark species has ever been observed caring for their young after birth, making them one of the most removed parents in the ocean.

2. Axolotl

Axolotls do not provide any parental care for their babies. After laying her eggs, the female axolotl leaves them unattended. Once these eggs hatch into larvae, the offspring are left to fend for themselves.

Bonus Fact: Axolotls are known to eat their eggs and fry (baby axolotls) – talk about an awkward family dinner!

hammerhead shark hammerhead shark
sea horses sea horses


3. Sea horse

Sea horses are unique because the males are the ones to hold and give birth to their offspring. In order to reproduce, the female will deposit her eggs into the male’s brood pouch, where he will then fertilize the eggs.

Once fertilized, the male sea horse will hold the eggs in his pouch for about a month while the embryos develop. Once the eggs are fully developed, the male sea horse will give birth, at which point his parental care ceases.


4. Clownfish

Did you know that all clownfish are born male?

It’s true! But clownfish are so dedicated to reproduction that the largest fish in the group will change its sex to become female in order to breed successfully.

Clownfish reproduce via external fertilization, where the female lays her eggs on a “nest,” and then the male will swim over the eggs to fertilize them. Once the eggs are laid and fertilized, the male clownfish takes over sole care of the unhatched eggs by protecting them from predators and fanning his fins over the eggs to increase water circulation and oxygen. Once the eggs are hatched, the baby clownfish are off to sea on their own, and parental care ceases.

Bonus fact: Once a male clownfish becomes female, they cannot switch back.

Clown fish Clown fish
Nile Hippo Nile Hippo


5. Nile hippopotamus

Female Nile hippopotamuses carry their babies for about eight months before giving birth, which can take place on land OR underwater. A few weeks before giving birth, the mother hippo will leave the herd to spend time alone with her newborn calf before returning to the group. Mother hippos will nurse their calves for 6-8 months before weaning. After weaning, the young stay with their mothers for several more years, at which point they may go off to find their own herd.

Hippo parents are also fierce protectors and will do what it takes to defend their young from predators such as crocodiles, lions, hyenas, and leopards.


6. African penguin

African penguins are faithful birds remaining monogamous throughout their breeding years. These birds also share their parental duties equally between the sexes, taking turns sitting on their eggs while the other goes out to forage for food and collect additional nesting material.

Once hatched, the chicks are reliant on their parents for food, which they are fed through beak-to-beak regurgitation. It takes about three months for an African penguin chick to become fully independent from their parents. At this point, the juveniles will head to sea to swim and hunt, returning to the colony a few years later to breed.

African Penguins African Penguins
Giant Pacific Octopus Giant Pacific Octopus


7. Giant Pacific octopus

Giant Pacific octopuses are not only one of the coolest creatures to call the ocean home, but they’re also one of the ocean’s most committed parents because they live and die to reproduce (literally).

The giant Pacific octopus spends much of its life in solitude, only seeking out the company of another GPO once it is time to breed. During reproduction, the male octopus will use the hectocotylus on his third right arm to take sperm from his mantel and place it inside that of the female. Once fertilized, the female will lay her eggs, becoming extremely protective to the point where she rarely leaves eggs alone. It takes about 6-7 months for eggs to hatch once they’ve been laid -- during this time, the female will tend to her eggs by aerating them with her siphon to ensure they get enough oxygen and stay clean of harmful bacteria.

After reproduction, both male and female octopuses enter senescence, a normal stage of their life cycle that often occurs before death as the body shuts down. Males go into senescence after mating, and the females while brooding eggs and after their eggs hatch.

8. Orca whales

Though not a species you can see here at Adventure Aquarium, orca whales are one of the most involved parents in the animal kingdom. In fact, not only do newborn orcas rely on their mother’s milk for up to two years, but once an orca calf is done nursing, they will still need to rely on their mothers for food until they can learn to hunt for themselves.

Orcas are also what we call “matrilineal,” which means that offspring stay with their mothers for life, creating tight-knit matriarchal-led “pods.” Throughout their lives, most orcas will only leave the company of their mothers for a few hours at a time in order to hunt or mate.


Now that you know more about the families of the ocean, come visit Adventure Aquarium with yours to experience the wonders of the deep blue. Visiting a place like the Aquarium can not only bring your family closer together by creating lasting memories, but it also provides many benefits that can positively impact childhood development. These benefits include:

  • Expanding Vocabulary | Kids will learn the definitions of words like herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore
  • Opportunities for Hands-On Learning | Check out one of our many touch exhibits!
  • Amplified Imagination | Experiencing the underwater world for the first time can open a child’s mind to oceans of possibilities they never knew existed.

So, round up the family, pack your adventure bag, and get ready for limitless discovery as you explore the depths of the ocean and all the incredible creatures that call it home.


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