As most homo sapiens would attest, raising kids is no easy chore. And if you’re a single Dad, the responsibility is even greater, and the job, much tougher. But what about animal fathers who have the added onus of bearing their young. That’s right. Some species are known for both ‘carrying’ their progeny as well ‘caring’ for them. Seahorses are just one.
Horsin' around . . .
Seahorse males are infamously known for getting pregos and gestating their youngins’ into a brood pouch in about 9 to 45 days. In this Youtube vid, view the miracle of a Papa seahorse giving birth to a ‘fry’ of on upwards of 1500 Babies. Now’s that’s what I call labor!
In reverse mating fashion, the female seahorse deposits up to 2,000 eggs in the male's pouch. Throughout gestation, the male's mate will visit him daily for “morning greetings”.
The male then carries the eggs until the seahorses emerge fully developed, but visually very small, as evidenced by the video above.
Why the male seahorse (and other members of the genus Hippocampus) carry the offspring through gestation is unknown, though some researchers believe it allows for shorter birthing intervals — in turn, resulting in more offspring. This gives males an unlimited number of ready and willing partners giving them the opportunity to produce more offspring than females in a breeding season.
While the Momma and Papa seahorses are not known to mate for life, many of the dads form bonds with their liaisons, at least for one full breeding season.
Although monogamy within fish is not common, it does appear to exist for some. This may be due to the mate-guarding hypothesis. That's the belief that, “males remain with a single female because of ecological factors that make male parental care and protection of offspring especially advantageous.”
Survival of the Fittest
Unfortunately, only about five seahorses out of every thousand survive to adulthood. The fry are so tiny they can't eat the same plankton food as their parents, so their choices are limited, and many perish early. Also, they tend to get carried away by ocean currents before they can latch onto rocks or other secure objects with their tails. This unfortunately puts them into peril in becoming part of the zooplankton other animals eat.
The fact that so few survive might be the reason seahorses share the child-rearing duties more than other creatures. Seahorse Dads take one for the team while Moms attend to other domestic duties, such as doing the shopping and making their underwater abode neat and tidy [just kidding!]
In any event, Happy Father’s Day you seafaring seahorses! We think you all deserve a congratulatory pat on the shell for all the hards work you’ve done and continue to do over the years! Way to go . . . or is it flow?
Primary Source: National Geographic