Most people are aware of the fact that the male seahorse gestates its young. I've been fascinated by that fact since childhood, when I would marvel at the little seahorse skeleton at the home of a friend. Alex and I were reading Mr Seahorse today, when it occurred to me that I really didn't know much about this fascinating phenomenon.
I had a moment's hesitation about seeking answers on Youtube in front of Mr Alex, and honestly, I was surprised at how much like human labour and childbirth this little seahorse's birth was (less 1799 offspring)! I was simultaneously fascinated and repelled. But oh, look closely... see those tiny seahorses! What a miraculous event.
The video is attached below (but be warned that you may find it disturbing).
I learned some very enchanting facts about seahorse courtship. First, that it closely mimics human courting behaviour.
"Before breeding, seahorses may court for several days. Scientists believe the courtship behavior synchronizes the animals' movements and reproductive states so the male can receive the eggs when the female is ready to deposit them. During this time, they may change color, swim side by side holding tails or grip the same strand of sea grass with their tails, and wheel around in unison in what is known as a "predawn dance"." (source) Secondly, that the female seahorse deposits unfertilised eggs and not fertilised embryos, seems especially relevant. The male seahorse is not merely a surrogate. That video left me with more questions, though. I thought only mammals had live births, fish lay eggs- but seahorse young are born alive! During Mr Seahorse's month long pregnancy, he is regularly attended to and visited by his female counterpart, who is in more than a hurry to get started making more babies after the exhausting birth process is complete. Gender role reversal indeed! And now I leave you with this charming image of pregnant Daddy seahorses. Do you suppose they complain of swollen ankles too?[caption id="attachment_270" align="alignnone" width="500"] Daddy bumps![/caption]
Read more about seahorses here.