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The 5 Worst Fathers In the Animal Kingdom

These dads won't be getting any Father's Day cards this Sunday.

1. Lions

Image courtesy of James Hopkirk's Flickr stream

You may already know that a male lion that recently became head of his pride will usually kill all the cubs sired by the previous leader. But while that makes lions terrible step-dads, it doesn’t make them terrible fathers. What makes lions bad dads is a combination of greed and laziness. Papa lions spend most of their day lying in the shade, waiting for one of their wives to bring home dinner. The female does all of the hunting and pretty much all of the parenting. The male’s job is to protect his territory from other prides and scavengers like hyenas.

Once the mama brings home her kill, the male lion is always the first one to eat and he often leaves only scraps for the rest of the pride –including any of his recently weaned children. If it’s a rough hunting season, an alpha lion will let his wives and children starve first.

2. Grizzly Bears

Image courtesy of BC Gov Photos' Flickr stream

It’s rare for any animal-kingdom father to eat his own young when he isn’t desperate for food, but the male grizzly bear will do just that. These baby-daddies are extremely protective of their territories, which can range all the way up to 1,500 miles, and are opportunistic hunters, willing to kill and eat anything that happens to enter their home turf –even their own cubs.

That means mama bears have to be extra good parents, not only making sure to feed their cubs and teach them how to survive on their own, but also ensuring their youngsters never happen to stray into their daddy’s bachelor pad.

3. Bass

Image courtesy of Velo Steve's Flickr stream

There are a lot of bad fathers under the sea. In fact, even those that are highly protective of their spawn, like male bass, are still prone to eating their own children. In the case of the bass, this occurs after most of the newborns have swum away and a few stragglers remain. Suddenly daddy stops protecting his kids from predators and becomes a predator himself, swallowing up all of the stragglers as a reward to himself for helping the strong ones stay alive.

4. Sand Goby

Image courtesy of Preview_H's Flickr stream

Similarly, the male sand goby is relentless about guarding his eggs from predators, but even if he has plenty of extra food available, he will still eat about a third of his brood. Research into how he decides which eggs to keep and which to eat reveals that size matters:  male gobies tend to eat the largest eggs. In many species, large babies mean a higher chance for survival –and thus, they are the most protected members of the family—but the sand goby knows that the largest eggs take longest to hatch. Pops snacks on the eggs that would take the longest to develop so he can get out of there and back to mating as soon as possible.

5. Assassin Bug

Image courtesy of Malcom NQ's Flickr stream

With a name like “assassin bug” you’d hardly expect this insect to be sweet, but filial cannibalism is still pretty gruesome. Daddy assassin bug is tasked with protecting his eggs until they hatch. His tactic mostly involves eating the eggs on the outside edges of the brood, which are otherwise most likely to fall victim to parasitic wasps. This defensive strategy is so hardwired that the bugs do it even in laboratory settings completely devoid of any potential parasites. Scientists believe this is because eating the eggs doesn’t only protect the insects against possible parasites, but also provides the male assassin bug with ample nutrients when his guard duty leaves him unable to forage. Interestingly, assassin bugs do have a bit of a soft spot—the males are some of the only insects that are willing to adopt broods from other fathers. (They don’t eat any extra eggs when their kids are adopted.)

A Few Good Dads

Not all the fathers in nature are so cold-hearted; in fact, some are downright amazing dads.

Image courtesy of eustatic's Flickr stream

You probably already know that seahorse daddies handle pregnancy duties, but they’re not the only ones: the hardhead catfish carries up to 48 eggs in his mouth until they hatch. How does he eat without swallowing down a few of his babies-to-be? He simply starves for two months, until his youngsters all hatch and swim away. Now that’s dedication.

Similarly, the giant African bullfrog carries up to 6,000 eggs in his vocal sacs for six weeks. When they’re ready to be born, he throws up, releasing thousands of baby tadpoles into the world.

Image courtesy of NoiseCollusion's Flickr stream

Every child loves piggyback rides – especially the giant waterbug. That’s because the mom cements up to 150 eggs to dad’s back and papa gives all of his youngsters a piggyback until they are born - a full month later.

The daddy rhea not only sits on his eggs for two months, forgoing food for all but two weeks of the incubation period, but then raises and guards the chicks for the first two years of their lives.
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Happy Father’s Day to all you Flossers! And remember: even if you don't get along, at least your dad never tried to eat you.

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Ocean Waves Are Powerful Enough to Toss Enormous Boulders Onto Land, Study Finds
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During the winter of 2013-2014, the UK and Ireland were buffeted by a number of unusually powerful storms, causing widespread floods, landslides, and coastal evacuations. But the impact of the storm season stretched far beyond its effect on urban areas, as a new study in Earth-Science Reviews details. As we spotted on Boing Boing, geoscientists from Williams College in Massachusetts found that the storms had an enormous influence on the remote, uninhabited coast of western Ireland—one that shows the sheer power of ocean waves in a whole new light.

The rugged terrain of Ireland’s western coast includes gigantic ocean boulders located just off a coastline protected by high, steep cliffs. These massive rocks can weigh hundreds of tons, but a strong-enough wave can dislodge them, hurling them out of the ocean entirely. In some cases, these boulders are now located more than 950 feet inland. Though previous research has hypothesized that it often takes tsunami-strength waves to move such heavy rocks onto land, this study finds that the severe storms of the 2013-2014 season were more than capable.

Studying boulder deposits in Ireland’s County Mayo and County Clare, the Williams College team recorded two massive boulders—one weighing around 680 tons and one weighing about 520 tons—moving significantly during that winter, shifting more than 11 and 13 feet, respectively. That may not sound like a significant distance at first glance, but for some perspective, consider that a blue whale weighs about 150 tons. The larger of these two boulders weighs more than four blue whales.

Smaller boulders (relatively speaking) traveled much farther. The biggest boulder movement they observed was more than 310 feet—for a boulder that weighed more than 44 tons.

These boulder deposits "represent the inland transfer of extraordinary wave energies," the researchers write. "[Because they] record the highest energy coastal processes, they are key elements in trying to model and forecast interactions between waves and coasts." Those models are becoming more important as climate change increases the frequency and severity of storms.

[h/t Boing Boing]

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A Man-Made Mountain in Finland Serves as an 11,000-Tree Time Capsule
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In 1982, the conceptual artist Agnes Denes set out to make a mountain. After a decade of work, she made it happen. In 1992, the Finnish government announced that it would sponsor Denes’s Tree Mountain—a 125-foot-tall manmade mountain built on top of a former gravel pit, designed to serve as part time capsule, part ecological recovery project.

Tree Mountain — A Living Time Capsule was constructed on the site of a former gravel pit near Ylöjärvi, Finland between 1992 and 1996. The artificially constructed landmass stands 125 feet tall, almost 1400 feet long, and more than 885 feet wide. (The top image of the triptych above shows the mountain in 1992 and the bottom image in 2013.) The forest planted on it forms a precise mathematical pattern Agnes designed based on the golden ratio-derived spirals of sunflowers and pineapples. From above, the oval mountain looks like a giant fingerprint made up of whorls of trees.

The project was never intended to just be aesthetically pleasing. Envisioned as a way to rehab land destroyed by mining, the trees are meant to develop undisturbed for 400 years, creating what will eventually be an Old Growth forest that can reduce erosion, provide wildlife habitats, and boost oxygen production.

And it was a communal effort. The roughly 11,000 pine trees were planted by different individuals who then became the custodians of those trees. Each received a certificate declaring their ownership for the project’s full term of 400 years. They can pass along this ownership to their descendants or to others for as many as 20 generations. These custodians (which include former UK prime minister John Major and former Icelandic president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir) are even allowed to be buried under their trees. But the trees can never be moved, and the mountain itself can’t be owned or sold off for those 400 years.

A triptych of images of Tree Mountain
Tree Mountain - A Living Time Capsule - 11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years (Triptych) 1992-1996, 1992/2013
Copyright Agnes Denes, courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

“Tree Mountain is the largest monument on earth that is international in scope, unparalleled in duration, and not dedicated to the human ego, but to benefit future generations with a meaningful legacy,” Denes writes. It “affirms humanity's commitment to the future well being of ecological, social and cultural life on the planet.”

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