Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love... Seahorse Style

The blog aquatic went on a brief hiatus. Temporarily swallowed, chewed and spit out by a white shark. But the blog is back. A little salty, sure. But limbs in tact.

Just a brief post on one of the wonders of the aquatic world, the seahorse. More specifically: seahorse birds and bees.

So the rampant seahorse rumors are true: it is the male seahorse who gets pregnant and gives birth. The woman deposits her eggs in the male's so-called brood pouch. Then the male fertilizes the eggs, where they mature inside him for around 3 weeks.

When it comes time to give birth, the male goes into a sort of seahorse labor, where he has muscular contractions and expels the babies (anywhere from a dozen to hundreds). His body shrinks (seahorse stretch marks?) and he loses color. Typically this happens at night and yet- miraculously- he's usually ready for a new batch of eggs by morning.

...But before the babies, there is, of course, the courtship.

Seahorses are monogamous and their flirtation is elaborate. When two seahorses realize there is a mutual interest, they start a ritual 'pre-dawn' dance where they swim together, holding their tales or swirling around a single blade of grass. This can last for days. They dance, change color in a sort of seahorse-blush and tell eachother all the little hippocampus secrets of their heart.

Finally, they're ready... The two seahorses drift out of the sea grass, snout to snout, often twirling and spinning. The female deposits her eggs into the male- and to the brood pouch they go.

Throughout the male's pregnancy, the female continues to see the male for short daily morning visits, where they reenact their courtship days. “They change color, wheel around sea grass fronds, and finally promenade, holding each other’s tails. Then, the female swims away until the next morning, and the male goes back to vacuuming up food through his snout.” (from the article, "Pregnant- and Still Macho- Seahorses")

While the pregnancy and courtship rituals of seahorses are not exactly an evolutionary fluke, the male still expends less energy overall despite his pregnancy, and can exhibit aggressive competitive behavior...there's still something, well, sweet about the whole thing, from their twirling dances, to the male's brooding pouch.

In the food chain battles, trenched mysteries and general weirdness of the aquatic world, the seahorses are small reminders that, even in all this, there's room for a little lovin' - snout to snout, in the sea grass.


Lily said...

this is fascinating! i had no idea. its funny - they're so strange and magical that i think i've come to think of seahorses as being makebeleive, despite the fact that they clearly do exist. also because, where are they? do they live in reefs? cold water? are they vegetarians? who hunts them? how long do they live? do they breed many times with the same mate? do they raise the children together, or just let them figure it out on their own?

Jessie said...

OK SeaMan: The answer to your seahorse questions...

1) apparently many people think seahorses are make believe. You're not alone.

2) but yes, they're real. - where are they? They live in warm shallow tropical waters- reefs, mangrove forests, sea grass...

3) They are not vegetarians. They dine on small plankton, tiny shrimp etc.

4) Who hunts them? I think they're endangered, because they're used in traditional chinese medicine, and maybe other uses as well.

4) and they're only monogamous for one season. so they'll breed multiple times in one season. Then they move on next season if they make it.

5) They don't raise the children. In fact, after the male gives birth, the babies are on their own. But seahorses babies have a better chance than most because they had time to acclimate in the brood pouch. But yeah... the babies gotta figure it out on their own.

(Bam! Every question answered. The blog aquatic has your seahorse interests at heart)

dr pepper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dr pepper said...

fascinating question for blog aquatic is, does the role reversal in reproduction (with respect to humans) show anything interesting about gender relations?


an easier question: is it possible to have one (or two) in your home? they are pretty cool.

rosy said...

I also love Title "Love..."Seahorse Style"I think The seahorses belong to the most magnificent and most remarkable organisms of the seas.Thanks