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On the Wild Side: Strange news from the World of Wildlife!

Gafftopsail Catfish male with eggs
E. W. Gudger

Marble Mouth

Fatherhood involves a lot of sacrifice, but not many human fathers can claim the same sort of self-sacrifice as the Gafftopsail Catfish. The male of this Atlantic and Gulf Coast sea catfish takes full responsibility for caring for the marble-like eggs after he has fertilized them. How does he do this, in waters thick with predators? By carrying them in his mouth -- as many as 55 eggs, each one up to an inch in diameter, for a period estimated at six to eight weeks! As if that weren't enough, he then may carry the young around as well, until they double in size from their hatching length of two inches.

This poor old Pops doesn't get to feed himself the entire time he is transporting his offspring, although all those fry right inside his mouth must be quite a temptation. But as soon as the kids are off on their own, he can resume his normal life of gobbling up smaller fishes and other creatures. Until the next batch of eggs comes along, that is. On the bright side, at least he doesn't have to put the kids through college!

Click here to learn more about the Gafftopsail Catfish.