Throughout our oceans we have some of the best (and worst) parents in the animal kingdom.

Let’s look at some of the strange behaviours carried out by marine mums and dads across the globe. Can you decide who deserves the parent of the year award?

Sperm Whales

Unlike other marine mammals, sperm whale parents help each other out. Sub-adults and adults will often babysit the calves in the pod, with mothers even feeding offspring that isn’t their own. Most calves nurse for two years, but it has been shown they may continue to drink milk for up to eight years! This behaviour helps calves as they don’t always have to keep up with their own mother and it allows the parents to go diving for prey.


Seahorses, as well their close relative’s, pipefish, are the only species of fish in which the male is pregnant and gives birth to the young. Females deposit eggs into the pouch of a male seahorse and this acts similarly to a womb in other animals. Males then give birth to up to a thousand babies, releasing them into the water. After they are released, these babies are left to fend for themselves with no parental care offered!


Being a jawfish dad is a bit of a handful… or mouthful? Jawfish fathers keep their eggs inside their mouths, which is a behaviour called mouth brooding. Male jawfish attract females into the burrows they have dug, where they will deposit their eggs for the males to fertilise. The males then scoop the eggs into their mouth to protect them for 8 – 10 days.


Despite what Finding Nemo might have portrayed, the dominant parent in an anemone is actually a female and the rest of the fish are males. Amazingly, if these females die, one of the males will change sex to take its place. Clownfish are incredibly determined parents when it comes to helping their eggs survive, fanning water across their eggs to keeps them clean and oxygenated.

Deep Sea Octopus

Finally, this might be the species that gives up the most for their babies. Graneledone boreopacifica, a species of deep-sea octopus, was recorded protecting her eggs for over four years! As well as covering the eggs with her body for protection, the female wafts fresh oxygenated water over them. As the female never leaves the eggs, she also does not eat, which means when the eggs hatch the female dies; sacrificing herself for the survival of her offspring.

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