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News Release 12-111

Pre-Father's Day Live Chat About Varied Animal Fathering Styles on June 14

NSF-funded scientists will answer your questions about fathering styles and bonding styles between parents in the animal kingdom

Photo of a male seahorse carrying the unborn babies in a stomach pouch.

Seahorses are devoted dads whose fathering responsibilities include undergoing pregnancy.

June 13, 2012

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Animal species demonstrate an amazing diversity of fathering styles and parental bonding styles.

This range of fathering activities and behaviors is the subject of a live, online chat about the science of fatherhood on June 14 at 3 p.m. EDT.

In addition to learning about animal fathering and parental bonding styles during the chat, participants may also learn how ongoing research on these subjects may ultimately shed important light on the diversity of human fathering styles and romantic bonding patterns demonstrated by men the world over.


This chat will be hosted by ScienceNOW, the daily news site of the journal Science.  Chat questions will be answered by two eminent experts on fathering behavior:

  • Kelly Lambert is the chair of psychology at Randolph-Macon College. She teaches psychology and neuroscience, and runs a research laboratory that focuses on the flexibility of the mammalian brain. She is currently conducting research funded by NSF on the paternal brain. Lambert is the author of The Lab Rat Chronicles: A Neuroscientist Reveals Life Lessons from the Planet's Most Successful Mammals. (Perigee Trade; 2011)
  • Karen Bales is an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the unit leader for Brain, Mind, and Behavior at the California National Primate Research Center. She has researched common marmosets, golden lion tamarins, and titi monkeys--all species that have "good" dads. Bales previously studied monogamy and parental behavior in prairie voles (a rodent) and primate behavior with NSF funding.

Potential topic coverage

You may ask our experts these and other questions:

  • Which species have "good" fathers, and why? Are there any species in which fathers are the primary care-givers?
  • What is the range of responsibilities handled by "good" fathers?
  • Why do fathers in some species, such as polar bears, eat their own young under some circumstances--and how in the world would such "bad" behavior advance evolution?
  • What pressures triggered the evolutionary upgrade from animals that deposit eggs without ever even seeing their offspring to parental animals that provide extended care to their offspring? And how did animal brains change to accommodate this upgrade?
  • What factors determine the particular fathering style and parental bonding style of each species?
  • Why are mothers in some species able to successfully raise their young alone while mothers in other species need (and get) help from fathers?
  • How much do fathering styles vary among individuals of a species, and what causes such variation?
  • What is the relationship between parental bonding styles and fathering styles? For example, do monogamous species tend to have "good" fathers?
  • What mechanism generates the bond between a "good" parent and its young?
  • How may research on parenting and bonding in the animal kingdom advance our understanding of these phenomena in humans?

Who should participate?

This chat is ideal for journalists working on stories about fatherhood for Father's Day, teachers and students of all levels, scientists and non-scientists who are interested in animal behavior and the dynamics of parenting and romantic relationships in humans.

How to participate

To participate in the chat, visit the chat page on June 14 from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT and submit your questions. A transcript of the chat will be archived on the ScienceLIVE Web site.

This chat is part of Science's weekly series of chats on the hottest topics in science.  These chats are held every Thursday at 3 p.m. EDT.


Media Contacts
Jane J. Lee, Science, (202) 326-6627, email:
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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