Happy Father’s Day to You, Seahorses!
by Tami Weiss, FusedJaw.com
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 fun 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.