To all the Dads out there…

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Happy Father’s Day!

Abedus sp. water bug with eggs hatching on his back (California)

Hard-working fathers do exist in the insect world. Male water bugs (Belostomatidae) carry their mate’s eggs glued to their backs to ensure they hatch safely.

9 thoughts on “To all the Dads out there…”

  1. I wonder if the unhatched batch is from a different female than the hatched batch, and if males already bearing eggs are more attractive, thus successful in winning mates, than those which still have unadorned backs. One drawback to this form of paternal investment I can see is, if the pond dries up, they are unable to disperse by flight to deeper, longer-lasting water.

    1. Hope Alex doesn’t mind, but water bugs are my study organisms and I want to respond! It’s possible the hatched and unhatched might be from two different batches, but they take so long to hatch that it’s hard to say without watching who laid the eggs originally. Males that only have part of their backs filled have been observed to find other females to finish filling the space with eggs, but sometimes they’ll just care for small clutches too. I’m not sure that females choose a brooding male over another, but that might make an interesting study! Hmmm… That might be something I can do myself. You’re right about their being stuck while they’re brooding as the eggs cover the wings, but this species is flightless anyway and tends to run overland when seeking water in a different stream. That said, the eggs don’t survive very long at all, a few hours at most, out of the water so I imagine the incentive to move while they’re brooding would have to be quite high (i.e. a flash flood is coming or the water is nearly completely dry) for them to consider moving while brooding. Now I’m wondering if my colleague who’s worked on dispersal of Abedus has ever found any out of the water with eggs… Might need to ask her!

      1. Thanks for your comment, Chris!

        I photographed this male as it was walking overland, at night, between two parts of a stream (though, only a few meters apart). So it would seem that brooding males do indeed walk out of water with eggs.

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