The Strange Sexual Journey of the Male Seahorse

August 26, 2019

The seahorse, while a fish, doesn’t exactly
look or act like one. They have a prehensile tail that can grab
vegetation, a tube-shaped mouth for sucking up food, and when they have sex, it’s the
male that gets pregnant. While male pregnancy in seahorses is fairly
unique in the animal kingdom, their mating ritual might sound familiar. They like to break the ice, by doing some
dancing. Seahorses will dance with each other for days,
wrapping their tails around one another, and even changing colors in the process. This allows the couple to reinforce their
bond and assess one another’s reproductive ability. It also might help synchronize their movements
for what comes next. The reproductive role-reversal is made possible
in part by the male’s brood pouch. The male will extend this pouch to impress
his dance partner. The female seahorse will then deposit her
eggs into the pouch using a protrusion from the bottom of her torso called an ovipositor. Once the eggs are with the male, he will fertilize
them with his sperm, ensuring that he is, in fact, the father. His work isn’t done there, however. The brood pouch is more than just a flap of
skin to hold eggs in. During pregnancy, the male seahorse keeps
blood flowing around the embryos, controls the salinity of the environment, and provides
oxygen and nutrition to offspring. When it’s time to birth his young, the male
seahorse expels the newborn seahorses from his pouch using muscle contractions. There can be as many as 2,000 offspring, known
“fry”, but many don’t make it to adulthood. Newborn seahorses are left on their own once
out of the brood pouch, and most die from predators or being whisked away by ocean currents. Less than 5 in every thousand will survive. Meanwhile, the parents are right back to their
mating ritual. While the male seahorse has been busy being
Mr. Mom, there are female seahorses with more eggs that are ready to be deposited. Some male seahorses can give birth in the
morning and be pregnant by the end of the day. Back to the dance floor, Mr. Seahorse. Back to the dance floor. For more videos about animal dads, check out
this playlist from our friends at the Dodo. Don’t forget to subscribe, and keep coming
back to Seeker for more videos.

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