Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Smallest Mr. Mom On The Planet

There are only three animal species on earth where the male becomes pregnant and gives birth: the seahorse and it's close relatives the sea dragon and pipe fish.  That makes the male in all three species the smallest Mr. Mom on the planet.

Many seahorse species mate for life, recognizing each other by sight.  Courtship dances can last for hours sometimes days. Once the dance is complete, the female will deposit her mature eggs within the male's brood pouch, located on his lower front abdomen, just above his tail.  He fertilizes the egg within his pouch.    

The gestation period is as little as two weeks for some species and as long as four weeks for others.  When he is ready to deliver, the male's abdomen begins to show muscular contractions.  Shortly thereafter, the baby seahorses are born.  There can be as few as a dozen to as many as a thousand fry (babies) depending on the species.  The babies are fully formed, look like miniature adults,
 and must be ready to fend for themselves.  Only one in a thousand survives to adulthood. 


Although seahorses are classified as fish, they do not have scales.  Their bodies are covered with a thin layer of skin stretched over boney plates.  Species differ in size, ranging from .6" to 14".  They grow continuously throughout their lives, which can be up to four years. 

Seahorses swim in an upright position, using their dorsal fin for propulsion.  This little fin can beat up to 50 times a second and is located on the back.  The pectoral fins (located on either side of the head) are used for maneuvering.  Seahorses spend most of their time stationary, grasping and holding sea grass or roots with their prehensile tail.

Two large eyes, located on either side of the head, can move independent of each other. 


A seahorse's mouth is shaped like a stationary tube.  Food enters through a sucking motion, similar to humans sipping through a straw.  Food is small in size since the animal has no teeth.  Carnivores by nature, seahorses eat a diet of animal plankton and small crustaceans, such as brine shrimp and copepods. 


Seahorses live in tropical and temperate shallow water ocean habitats within mangrove forests and sea grass beds.

Protection From Predators:

The seahorse has special pigment containing cells within it's skin that allow it to change color mimicking it's surroundings. This camouflage technique makes it very hard for a predator to spot them clinging, tails wrapped securely, around stalks of sea grass and mangrove roots.  It is the seahorse's only mode of protection.

Conservation Issues:


Most of the 47 known seahorse species are in decline worldwide, and a lot of it has to do with humans.  Seahorses live in shallow water near humans which makes them subject to habitat loss from human development and pollution.  Many are captured for the aquarium trade.  Others are used in traditional medicines, mostly in China. 

Research Sources:

1.  "How Do Seahorses Differ From All Other Animals?"  National Ocean Service: National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA).  Web. 13 Apr. 2018.    <>.

2.  "Seahorses".  US Fish & Wildlife Service.  Web.  13 Apr. 2018.  <>.

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