Happy Father’s Day! 10 Seahorse Facts About the Best Dad In the Animal Kingdom.
Seahorses are often referred to as the best dads in the animal kingdom – and for good reason – they’re the only animal where the male gets pregnant! That’s right, it’s the men that take on the joys of childbirth in these equine fishes.
How does he do it? He has a special patch of skin called a “brood pouch” that the female lays the eggs into. He then keeps the eggs safe until they hatch using a strong muscle to keep the pouch closed. When they hatch, he releases the fry (baby seahorses) to fend for themselves. The fry are exact replicas of the parents, except only a few millimeters long.
Some other interesting seahorse facts:
- As few as 8 or as many as 2000 seahorses can be born at one time, depending on the species.
- The male seadragon and the male pipefish, seahorse relatives, also incubates the eggs. However, another relative, the Ghost Pipefish, the female that incubates the eggs.
- Seahorses lack a tail fin for swimming. Instead, their tail has evolved to grasp objects to keep them anchored in place. To swim, they use their small dorsal fin on their backs, and steer with their pectoral fins which are located on their head behind their gills. For that reason, they are not very good swimmers.
- Adult seahorses do not have very many predators. They have bony plates covering their whole body which makes them unpalatable to most fish. The few animals that don’t seem to mind this are crabs, skates and rays, angler fish, tuna, penguins and other sea birds.
- The first recognized pygmy seahorse Hippocampus bargibanti, a species smaller than your thumbnail, was discovered on accident when a biologist studying the sea fans in the lab noticed this tiny fish that had hitched a ride on the sea fan he was studying.
- The smallest seahorse known is only 13mm long. Satomi’s pygmy seahorse was only discovered in the past year, and is less than the size of a penny. Its babies (or fry) are about the size of an apostrophy in a newspaper when born.
- Five new species of seahorses have been described in the past year – all pygmy seahorses under 1 inch. Most were discovered by divers and pictures sent to scientists who later confirmed their existence.
- Seahorse pairs “dance” for hours, synchronizing their movements by twirling around one another with their tails entwined before mating. They will often change colors and rock back and forth in rhythm. The female signals she is ready to mate by tipping her snout skyward and the pair ascends into the water column where the female passes the eggs to the male
- Only one species of seahorse, the tiger tail seahorse, is nocturnal. It is thought that they may have developed this behavior in the last 50 years due to overfishing. During the day they hide in corals and crevices.
- Seahorses are monogamous – some of the time. A recent study found that while many seahorses prefer the same mate and will mate with the same partner repeatedly, they are often found switching mates (And some aren’t monogamous at all!) However, a male seahorse only carries one female’s eggs at a time.
Happy Fathers’ Day, seahorse daddies!